Sapphire pays more attention to Ruby’s body than they probably ever have. She knows its quirks and flow, and no twitch is any less telling than the pitch or tone of their voice. She’s traced each wave of their form with her eyes a million times and her fingertips more every chance she’s had, and could precision-palpate every soft calcium deposit or cellulite bump under their skin with the efficiency of a doctor. She knows where their hair grows rougher, where their nerves grow ticklish, and which parts of them become most clammy when they’re nervous. She can catch their pulse under her ear like she’s been bottling it around her from birth, and sense the vibration of their voice as though she’s had it wrapped on fishing line and tied to her own chest. Like a fortune-teller with a crystal ball, Sapphire can scoop the gem of her heart into her arms and know what is or isn’t.
It’s a bit alarming, then, when she climbs onto their lap and finds the muscles aren’t as hard anymore.
Oh, they’re there, and much bigger than hers, still. The arcs of their rectus femora lay under her like warm ridges, bulked up by their sister quadriceps into legs that had once been the envy of every sports team player save the track stars, but something’s different. Sapphire wiggles back and forth so her own thighs can assess, and quickly confirms her suspicion; Ruby’s going soft.
Curiously, Sapphire knots her brows and pushes back their shirt hem so her fingers can take a turn. She rubs her palms together quickly, blowing hot air into the pocket they’ve created, then presses them to Ruby’s skin with the efficiency of a paramedic using a defibrillator. Drowsily Ruby’s gut twitches, as if she’s shocked them, but she doesn’t pause to let them still. Sapphire rubs the soft hills of their ribs and traces the divots between them, then cups their sides like she’s going to shake the bigger woman from the middle out. Her fingertips sink gently into the amenable fat of their lower belly, and she appreciatively sweeps her touch across it, admiring the dark curls around their navel and giving the “love handles” leaning towards the mattress a squeeze. She sets her fingers together and points her hand towards their face, then smoothes her touch from stomach to sternum in one long, determined stroke. Her eyes flutter as she focuses, all her fine sensory touch delegated to this single task.
Ruby shifts at the contact, their chest rising slightly, and mumbles something through their dry lips. Sapphire props herself onto her knees, gives Ruby’s warm cheek a fond caress, then continues with her investigation. She kneads down their arm, lazily draped into the pillow, and finds that the the thew there, too, is lesser. The fine muscles beneath their biceps have gone flaccid, and Sapphire can pinpoint individual runs of tendons in their forearm when she shoves their sleeve up. She huffs, momentarily burying a hand on either side of Ruby’s cloud of hair and frowning at them, and scours their visage for similar threats. Their cheeks, though flushed with sleep, sink in a way they haven’t before. The dark spaces under their eyes are more noticeable, though less pronounced without their habitual squinting. Their jawbone is obvious, and Sapphire traces one side with her thumb.
She doesn’t like this. Certainly, Sapphire is fond of their musculature for many reasons, and would lament any loss, but the way their calf yields to her pressure and that small pucks of loose fascia bubble under her fingertips as she traces from ankle to knee joint make her uncomfortable. She props one of their feet aloft to run her thumbs down either side of their shinbone, and Ruby stirs.
“Not that I mind an impromptu massage,” they yawn, blinking at her from under an arm and brushing the piled fabric of their shirt back down, expression puzzled, “But what’s up?”
Sapphire drops their heel unceremoniously back on the bed, crawls back up to resume her initial position on their hips, and jams her arms akimbo. She glares down at her partner, intentionally tilting her head so her bangs fall far enough off her face to display her displeased scowl. Ruby balks, their curled hand pausing in its ferocious scrub of their eye.
“What?” they mumble, visibly sinking into the pillow, “What’s wrong? What did I do?”
“You shrunk,” Sapphire snips.
“I did not. I’m still five foot five and a quarter, thanks very mu–” they start, rolling their eyes, but Sapphire cups their cheeks in a fluid movement and pulls their attention back. Concern softens her touch, and she relieves one hand to brush a few stray curls away from their face.
“I mean that you’ve lost weight. Are you stressed out? Is there something on your mind? Are you eating? Do you get enough sleep?”
“Y-yeah, Sapphire, I’m fine,” Ruby fumbles, covering her palm with their own. Their warm brown eyes are searching hers, body stiff with alarm but still much softer than she’d like. “Everything’s good now. I made it here. It’s okay.”
Something about their answer feels like a dodge, but Sapphire can’t place it enough to call them out on it. Ruby looks genuinely surprised, anyway. They’ve gone still, hands wide and laying next to their head to display their submission, their hair is so wild around them that they appear to have been electrocuted, though even it falls flatter than usual in the power of her stare. Ruby licks their lips, and their breath stills as Sapphire deflates, her touch finding placement on what’s still exposed of their stomach.
She wipes her hands across their gut mindlessly, enjoying the feel of their skin and the heat radiating off it. She recalls, distantly, reading an article about stress and cortisol and fat sitting along the waist, and she presses into the weight Ruby’s storing inquisitively. The pale stretch marks zipping up from their pelvis shimmer as their skin pulls, and Sapphire is far too tempted not to lean over and kiss where they strike. She looks up from under her hair when she hears Ruby breathe, and demands softly, “You promise there’s nothing wrong?”
The broader woman shakes their head, and Sapphire can feel goosebumps fly under her palms as her sigh tickles the damp spots she’s left on their gut.
She presses her face into Ruby’s middle, smoothing her palms across their sides and trying to adjust to this new, more cushiony version of her partner. Of course, there are parts of it she likes – Ruby’s little belly is more pronounced now, and there’s something about the give of their body that demands her contact, as though she were a staple in the field of an earth magnet – but then she considers how obvious their floating ribs are to her touch, and how parts of their breastbone bump against her fingertips as though peppered in thick strands of braille. The crests of their hips nudge her forearms in a way once only the warm pad of their obliques did. She runs her nose along their abdomen, but only shivers meet her contact. The pronounced muscles that were once there have run smooth, like wax to heat.
“Sapphire,” thrums against her lips, though the sound comes from above her. A hesitant hand laces through her hair, lifting strands into free flight. She can hear words forming as Ruby takes a slow inhale, notes the tensing in their legs that says they’re ready to shift, and runs her tongue gently along the same trek. She dots the curve where their ribs and sternum meet with kisses, and Ruby’s sentence dies into several twitches and a short, “Oh.”
She’s not sure when her intentions shifted from exploration to instigation, but truthfully, despite all her concern, Ruby’s body is still gorgeous and warm and here, and that’s hardly something Sapphire’s willing to pass up. She logs every difference as she samples their torso with her lips and teeth, slipping up and down the dark skin like a smooth stone across ice. If ever the action tickles, Ruby gives no indication; the weight of Sapphire’s form against their lower body and stabilizing grip on their waist are probably too contrasting for that.
Their hand slowly begins to tighten in her hair as she nips above the band of their lounge pants, and Sapphire curls her fingers into their hips possessively, as though with each kiss she can sibilate, “This is mine, treat them well,” to the structures around Ruby’s bones. She traces her palms down the cloth on their thighs, and suddenly Ruby’s back is tilting off the mattress, presenting all the more skin to lay claim to. Sapphire smoothes a hand up to their chest once more and holds it over their heart to feel it beat; her opposite hand tugs their pants enough to expose a hint of their thigh, and their pulse skips noticeably when her tongue runs lightly through the crease where their leg joins their pelvis.
The first sound Ruby makes in a good few minutes is no more than a squeak, but if Sapphire’s Bodylanguese is up to snuff, it’s a clear indicator of enjoyment. She slides her left hand sideways, a shiver running up her own spine as the soft flick of a nipple skims under her palm, and cups Ruby’s breast. They groan, hips lifting once more, and she uses the opportunity to tug their pants halfway down their thighs.
“Sapph-ire,” their high voice shudders, and she allows herself a glance to take in the goddess under her hands. They’re too distracted to return her stare, but it’s just as well, because Sapphire feels like she might be drooling unattractively at the sight. Ruby’s shirt has shuffled once again up towards their neck, and their small breasts are tilting to either side of their chest, nipples erect. She jostles her thumb around the one she has captured, and the twitch that runs through their shoulders makes both shake. She traces her knuckles up the barrier of Ruby’s underwear – silky and dotted with what glittering rhinestones have survived the wash – and the gasp that shudders through them like a wave is dangerously erotic. She hooks the top of their panties with her thumb, kissing just at the crest of their clitoral hood, and slips a finger sideways between them and the fabric barrier. Ruby keens, their knees lifting, and suddenly sniffs.
All action ceases. Sapphire releases their breast and lifts herself onto her arm, startled. Her blood pressure seems to plummet as she takes in Ruby’s expression, for she begins to feel faint.
“Ruby?” she whispers, wide gaze tracing the thin line of tears running down one side of their tilted face. Their nose is scrunched up, as if trying to force the water back from whence it came, and their free hand is curled by their neck, trembling. Sapphire’s chest becomes painfully tight, and she untangles her fingers from their underwear quickly, her own eyes glossing at the thought that she might have hurt – or frightened, or alarmed – her partner.
A warm palm grabs hers and presses it back against Ruby’s body before she’s fully removed herself; Sapphire stares down at their intertwined fingers, her digits, despite the fear, twitching excitedly at the wet skin and cloth they meet. She gapes nervously and adds, “Are you okay?”
A deep breath answers her, and she turns to watch as Ruby’s eyelashes flutter open at the ceiling. Their red cheeks seem to eat up the tears that slip down upon them. Sapphire leans as close to their face as she can manage, and murmurs their name a second time; Ruby sniffs again, and finally croaks, “I missed you.”
“I–” they blink quickly at the white tiles above the bed, the hand upon hers trembling, “It’s been months s-since you–”
“Ruby,” she whispers, her blood cooling in her veins at the realization that they’re about to bring up her schooling, as if they haven’t gone over the logistics of this situation a thousand times, or hadn’t known the complications of a long distance relationship and suffered countless nights making do with a phone and their own hands. She stills further, hurt bleeding from hairline seams in her psyche. “I’m sorry–”
“I’m happy, Sapphire,” they correct, voice cracking in some form of bizarre, overemotional laughter, and their exhausted arm finally makes itself useful in wiping their cheekbones. The heat of their voice, so innocent and unafraid to confess to her, puts warm patches on the pain that had been leaking in, and Sapphire melts. Her hand slides gently upward as she leans forward enough to kiss them, and Ruby jolts and moans against her lips. She’s not sure how well she’s portraying her gratitude after all the bodily teasing and demanding about their health she’s been doing, but Sapphire is determined to let her lover know that she’s missed them just as much.
Each meet of their lips is tender, warm with their breath and Ruby’s faint hiccups of swallowed tears. They cup a careful hand against her cheek, and the rough ridges of the pads between their knuckles feel like home; Sapphire pushes into them insistently, as if ensuring that she’s there, and wants to be. She works their mouth soft in the same way the world has taken the strength from their muscles – with time, and need – and kisses their jaw and eyelids and brow and nose with the same dedication.
“I missed you too,” she whispers, pressing their foreheads together, and when Ruby guides her hand back to them, she doesn’t hesitate in sliding her middle finger deep into their vagina.
There will be times in the future, Sapphire reminds herself, when they can play rough, and express their want of each other with loud sounds and quick motions and things that are obnoxiously coloured, but now is far from that time, and she’s glad of it. Perhaps caressing Ruby like this wasn’t her initial intention, but it seems like an excellent way to express her adoration for the woman, who learns through touch more than anything. Sapphire presses faint, unending kisses across their cheeks, repositions herself so she can free a hand to stroke the fine hair by their ear, and curls the single finger inside of Ruby to touch them.
The effect is, truly, sweet. The room is quiet, and something about their solace is warm and safe, though the sheets around them and Ruby’s precariously twisted shirt threaten to strangle one of them. They pant quietly, turned into her wrist, their hands clutching her close on both fronts. Ruby’s eyes are clamped shut, but no longer streaming water, and their cheeks are flushed pink for better reasons, now. She licks their bottom lip gently and kisses them.
“I love you,” Ruby whimpers, shuddering against her touch, “Sapph– Sapphire, I–”
“Shhh, Sundrop,” she murmurs against their ear, and the slick hand working them slows as Ruby begins to clench around her fingers. They moan into her shoulder, their fingertips digging into her arm, and the steady rolling of their hips trades places with spasms as she adds, “I know.”
Perhaps they look silly when Ruby lifts their heavy limbs and clutches Sapphire close, what with her hand still absolutely soaked in their want and finger still buried inside, but she can’t find the desire to care about appearances. Ruby is here, and holding her, and the gasps by her side aren’t coming from thousands of miles and a phone cord away. She knots fingers in their wiry curls and collapses against them, repeating their name against their chest as if assuring their heart she hadn’t forgotten.
There’s a pause in which they – and the the atmosphere, for nothing in the tiny dorm room seems set to move or shuffle or make any sort of disruptive noise – fall silent. Ruby’s panting and their heartbeats feel like the only sounds on the planet.
“I’ve been on a diet,” Ruby says finally, their tone breathy and muffled in her collar, “Sort of.”
“What for?" Sapphire snorts, and begins slowly sliding her finger back and forth inside of Ruby, given that the muscles have finally released her. The sensible thing would be to pull out, but the slight motion is encouraging a respondent action from the other woman, and she’s miffed enough by the idea of Ruby dieting to threaten a bit of overstimulation.
“Because I… uh, you know how… well, students do it all the time. I checked the numbers a bunch so I wouldn’t be hurt– anhh– h-hurting myself, and the vegetarians get b-by on beans all the time, so I th-thought– Sapphire, do you want an explanation or n-not?”
“I wasn’t getting one,” she replies, rolling circles with her fingertip just at the entrance to Ruby’s vagina; their legs twitch, but one tilts sideways to allow her more room, so something’s going right.
“I was just saying– look, it wasn’t cheap to get here, and I thought that– ohh, god– t-that I didn’t want to wait eight months to come s-see you, so I cut down my grocery bill b-by–”
“Were you living on rice and beans?”
“People in India do it!” Ruby squawks, trying and failing to hold an indignant expression as Sapphire twirls two fingers inside of them. Their head falls back against the pillow as their chest arches up, and Sapphire takes the action as an invitation to lick her way to their neglected breasts and sample each. They taste of salt and warmth and Ruby, and she clutches their ribs and pulls them closer to her mouth to savour these flavours she’s ached for. Their spine presses into her fingertips as they gasp, and she lifts her lips from where she’s been biting to tell them, “I’m going to start sending your money to eat, Ruby.”
“Wh– what? No!” they cry, but the sound quickly morphs into a drawn-out groan as Sapphire spreads the fingers inside their cunt and once again strokes them. Their grip knots in the bedsheets as their hips tilt downward, trying to push her farther in. “You only h-have loans.”
“I want you,” Sapphire says sternly, kissing the breath from their lungs and rubbing languid circles inside of them, “Healthy and heavy and not starving yourself for me.”
Ruby takes a moment to work up a reply; their tongue is busy reaching for hers, and they’re pressing into her like their lower body is trying to do a backbend. She pulls her fingers almost completely out of them, delighting in the slick noise and spill of heat and wetness that follows, before reaching back inside to see what else they have to offer. The motion makes them wild; Ruby’s sustained hand goes weak where it’s tangled in her hair, and they moan like they’re going to start sobbing. They gasp, “I missed you,” again, and the words – the implication – hit so hard that Sapphire chokes up. She presses her lips firmly to their forehead and changes the pace of her fingers just subtly (and just enough to cramp her hand), distracting herself from the very real tears that threaten a mimic of her partner’s performance.
When they come a second time, Ruby crumbles like the very energy used to keep them breathing is too much; their hairline is damp with sweat, and their shaking hands have lost traction on everything they had been holding. They whimper with every soft peck Sapphire presses to their lips, groan when she carefully retreats from their grasp, and hug the hand that treated them like a lifeline against their breast. Sapphire watches them kiss her damp fingers, dizzy with affection, and after a pause, uxoriously whispers, “Pizza or fries with your salad, babe? I’m hitting up the cafeteria and getting you some food.”