The first clue Rip had that something was wrong was when Ray flinched when Rip kissed him.
It was just for a second. Ray probably thought he hadn't even noticed. But there had been an ever so brief recoil before Ray returned the kiss with what seemed like the same gusto as ever.
This wasn't the first time they'd kissed since Rip had returned, and all of those other times had seemed normal. But now Rip wondered if Ray had been pretending. If in all the excitement over Rip's resurrection, they'd both wanted things to be back to normal. Only they weren't really.
Or maybe Rip was just being paranoid. Dying can do that to you.
Rip was staring. He realized he'd been staring for some time now; he wasn't sure just how long. He did know what had caught his attention, though, if not why.
He was staring at Ray, sleeping on the bed in front of him. That on its own could still be innocent, but a part of Rip knew it wasn't. Because, specifically, he was staring at Ray's throat. Rip's eyes were focused on right where the vein was, carrying all that rich, warm blood back to the heart. He could almost see the pulse beating steadily just under Ray's skin: constant like a metronome. It was hypnotizing. Rip didn't want to look away.
He wasn't entirely sure why he was staring at Ray's throat. He just knew there was no good answer to be found there.
This was his second clue that something was wrong and that the something might be him.
Ray never talked about how he'd brought Rip back. It seemed to be a subject he was deliberately avoiding. Just like he never talked about where the rest of the Legends were or why they were on a jumpship and not the Waverider itself.
The thing was that Rip didn't particularly care. He hadn't thought to ask, about the rest of his friends or even Gideon, and now that it occurred to him that this was perhaps another indication that he wasn't quite himself anymore. Only none of it bothered him enough to bring the situation up with Ray. Rip thought he'd rather just be for a while, and maybe after some time his curiosity would return. Or maybe not. He thought that would be okay too.
Living on a jumpship should have felt claustrophobic. Rip was certain the previous him would have been pacing up and down the short space, while slowly going insane from being so enclosed. But the current him didn't mind so much. He spent most of his time staring: at nothing or at Ray. The latter being the only thing on board the ship that interested him anymore.
While certain parts of who he'd once been seemed dulled now, the one thing Rip felt the same or greater than before was hunger. Nothing seemed to sate it. All the food from the food fabricator tasted the same, of nothing. He hadn't told Ray yet; Rip didn't want to worry him. It was just taste. If that was the worst of what he had to pay to be here, with Ray, he'd gladly pay it.
Rip ran his tongue up Ray's body, starting from his bellybutton and stopping to suck at one nipple.
He continued upwards, kissing and licking his way along Ray's body. The noises Ray made in return felt something like satisfying for Rip; he liked it when Ray was happy, after all.
A little voice—that he feared might be what remained of his humanity—warned Rip not to go too far. That he needed to avoid such temptation as the smooth lines of Ray's neck, the way his skin went taut when Rip made him arch his back, Ray's mouth scrambling to say anything sensible and failing. And that damn bloody pulse at the center of it all, beating faster and faster as Rip pushed Ray as far as he could.
The rest of Rip wanted nothing more than to bite down. Not to kill; Rip told himself that he could never want Ray dead. But to mark Ray as his own. To leave a permanent imprint of his teeth, a scar that would leave a part of himself in Ray forever.
Instead of giving into such desires, Rip grabbed ahold of both of their cocks in one of his hands, moving back and forth along them at the same time. He forced himself to go slowly, to lose himself in the sensations. Friction and heat built up, until he even forgot about the pounding blood in Ray's veins.
For the briefest of moments, as Rip came, he felt human again.
Rip barely slept anymore, but when he did, he dreamt only of blood. And of Ray. He always awoke staring at Ray and wanting everything he could give.
Sometimes he thought he saw a glimmer of fear in Ray's eyes.
There was clearly only one real choice: Rip had to leave. He feared what would happen if he and Ray remained alone together, if Rip ever gave in to the hunger that increasingly consumed him. He couldn't imagine continuing to live if he ever hurt Ray.
He knew he was wrong now, that he was nothing like the man he'd once been. Ray deserved so much better than him.
The only trouble was convincing Ray of that.
"Please, don't go."
Rip remembered their conversations, years ago, about their mutual lost families. All of that old grief slammed home, and he reached a different conclusion than the one he'd been determined to stick to. It was a simple truth. There were worse things than what he was now; that void in him where his wife and son once were was one of them.
He couldn't do that to Ray again.
Rip locked his eyes on Ray's, forcing his gaze in place. It took all of Rip's concentration. Not to drift downwards just a little bit. To where the blood rushed, impassioned, through Ray's throat, connecting heart and head. To that pulse, steady and quick, just beneath the surface of the skin. So close. Rip's mouth started watering. But he kept his eyes locked on Ray's.
"I'll never leave you."