You're caught below, beneath your own shadow
Stuck inside, half alive
Do you ever stop to ask yourself why?
Close your mind, identify
Do you feel, do you feel?
Do you call this a life?
- This is the Time by Nothing More
It’s become a daily occurrence. Grimm leaning over the rocky ledge and blinking into the inky darkness below. He watches as it moves like waves, lapping at the ledges of Crystal Peak. The void had risen dramatically, filling nearly all that was below. It keeps some form, staying away from settlements (- people they remembered ). It’s Grimm’s first realization that maybe Ghost is still somewhere in there.
Sometimes several pairs of white eyes open to look back up at him. Grimm reaches out, then, hand lazily reaching for something, anything. The eyes disappear as if scared, flinching away from him. Grimm hurts.
He tries again, though, “Darling, you look fine. Please come out.” He wants to think Ghost is just shy but he knows, deep down, the case is more complicated.
The Void shifts but there is no other response. Grimm sighs, pulling his knees up to his chest and reaches up to touch the rose planted in his missing eye. He isn’t completely sure how much of Ghost is left, if anything. But he has to hope. He has too. He’s spent his life growing up and staring into the Void. He’s gotten his memories back and still he’s avoided his Troupe in favor of hope . The Nightmare King is not pleased but he also doesn’t force Grimm to return. The Troupe could find him if they really needed but Grimm will not, cannot, leave Hollownest until he knows Ghost is alright. Until he knows Ghost is alive .
It’s a strange thing. He’s never felt so compelled to stay somewhere before. He and his Troupe have always traveled and he never felt the need to settle down. He had been close to other summoners before but he never really felt the urge to know what fate befell them after the Ritual. It was often better that way. But Ghost…
He shifts, looking back into the darkness. He swears he saw the light of eyes but there’s nothing when he leans over the edge.
Maybe the connection is because of Ghost’s ascension. Maybe it’s not even a connection to the vessel but instead to the Shade Lord. Higher Beings are drawn to each other after all. And the Shade Lord had long been silent that this awakening had even shook the Nightmare King. Grimm’s master leaves him to his own devices, though, because with the Radiance’s death, the King of Nightmares is more focused on attempting to wrest control of both dream realms for himself. It gives Grimm room to breathe. Room to worry about Ghost without his master constantly invading his mind and dreams.
Grimm stands up, brushing himself off, and glancing down into the Void one last time. “I’ll see you tomorrow, love,” he whispers, voice sad, but he turns away all the same.
He isn’t exactly sure why his legs end up taking him to the gardens but he ends up at the small plot just inside the Queen’s Gardens. It’s situated away from the White Lady, and it is relatively hidden that Grimm wouldn’t have found it if he hadn’t remembered Ghost bringing him here before. It was where Ghost tended to their own flowers, a collection from all over Hollownest and beyond. The Void had avoided nearly all of Greenpath, and especially the Queen’s Gardens. Grimm isn’t sure if this is because of her influence or a part of Ghost showing through. He hopes the latter.
Grimm has been tending to the flowers for as long as Ghost has been missing. He never fancied himself a gardener before this and never really cared much about plants in general. Always at odds with his natural affinity with fire, but… This isn’t about him, is it? The roses and spider lilies are his favorite, though, if he had to choose. And the enigmatic Delicate Flower. He’s always so careful with those, just like he saw Ghost do. He does his rounds, watering each and checking the soil before making sure to remove any dead foliage. Just like Ghost had shown him. It’s a nice distraction. That’s probably why Ghost loved it so much.
He catches himself thinking of Ghost in the past tense and shakes his head. His shoulders slump and he reaches for one of the Delicate Flowers. He’s gentle with it as he plucks it near the soil. His eye stings with tears and he growls.
Almost desperately, he makes his way back to the Void. This time closer to the Black Egg Temple. The inky blackness laps against the Temple but does not drown it. Grimm sets the flower down near the edge of where the almost tide like waves of the Void move against the ground. When the waves moves back towards it, it freezes, dances around the flower like it’s covered in an invisible bubble. Grimm has done this before and the reaction of the Void doesn’t surprise him. His shoulders shake. He wants to yell.
“Is it because it’s Pale? Or because you don’t want anything to do with the memories?” He snaps. “Both?” He takes a step toward the waves and the shrink back from him. He pauses, usually the Void doesn’t move away from him. A growl bubbles up in the back of his throat and he takes another step forward. It draws back again, as if making a path. Grimm’s eyes narrow and, on his third stride forward, a path indeed does open up for him – straight through the ocean of Void, leading him deeper down into what used to be Hallownest.
“An invitation? How kind,” his voice is sarcastic and cold but still he follows the path. He can barely recognize the kingdom anymore, with the Void clinging to surfaces and flowing across the land like water with a mind of its own. He can see the city in the distance, left mostly untouched besides rivers that run through the streets. His path ends before he gets too close and it’s a simple clearing free of Void. He glances back to see the way he came is once again covered. He frowns, arms crossed as the coldness of the Void all around sucks the heat from him.
There’s a noise behind him, like static. It’s familiar and he spins. Four pairs of glowing eyes meet his and his breath catches in his throat. The Shade Lord raises themself from the Void, claws larger than Grimm’s whole body planting themself into the earth near him as they push themselves up. Grimm doesn’t even flinch. They tower above him, head cocked to the side, analyzing him.
“Ghost,” Grimm whispers.
The Shade Lord releases a static noise, deep and resonating. They’re laughing. The God of Gods shakes their head and Grimm’s heart aches.
“They’re in there. I know they are.”
They seem to think about this, leaning their massive head down. Grimm reaches out, placing a hand between the sets of eyes. They blink. Something flashes through their eyes. They pull back like they were shocked. The ground shakes and tentacles lunge towards Grimm. He attempts to dodge but they catch his leg on his blind side, tugging him to the ground. Another tentacle pins his arms. He snarls but he’s not afraid of death. He can’t die until the Nightmare King lets him die.
“Ghost, darling, please. It’s me.”
There’s that flash through the Shade Lord’s eyes again, like a figure passing by a window. Like a phantom. A ghost .
A tentacle touches the rose in his eye tenderly. “ Grimm .” He isn’t sure if it is spoken aloud or just an echo in his mind. It’s not a voice, but yet, he knows just what they said. He leans his head into the touch.
“I miss you so much, love.”
“ I know .” That same feathery touch of words. Barely there but in reach. The Shade Lord – no , at this moment, it has to be Ghost – leans their head down, bumping against Grimm’s head gently. He kisses them and a sort of growl rumbles all around them. The tendrils still holding him loosen and he sits up slowly. The tentacles move down his arms and he shivers at the coldness. One slides up his leg and he lets out a shaky chuckle.
“Darling, are you teasing ?”
“Are you saying you don’t like this? ” Ghost taunts and hearing them speak even without words makes Grimm’s heart flutter.
“Oh, you know I love tentacles, darling,” he teases right back. Grimm never imagined that his and Ghost’s first time would be like this, but he’s been alone for far too long.
“ Do you often think of what our first time would be like? ” Ghost asks, their tentacles squeezing Grimm’s upper thigh. Their eyes squint as if they’re grinning.
An uncommon blush spreads across Grimm’s face. “Are you in my head ?” Another tendril strokes his cheek, feeling the warmth of his blush. A laugh shakes them, airy and staticy.
“ You invited me. ”
Memories of them fighting, of the Dream Nail striking the Nightmare King, the desperate beat of the Nightmare Heart – the Ritual. It’s strange seeing the memories through Ghost’s point of view.
“I suppose I did.”
“ How did you imagine our first time? ” Ghost asks and Grimm can’t hear their tone but he can feel the honest curiosity in it.
“Well, you weren’t a giant Void monster for one. But you were taller.”
Another static laugh as one of Ghost’s tendrils pass across his lips. “ Maybe I could change size if I had more control. But there are… a lot of other voices in here. It’s hard to focus. ”
“But I can capture that focus?” He reaches up to grab the tendril, holding it to his mouth so he can kiss it.
“ Nearly effortlessly .” The sound, if it could be called that, is breathless. “I’m more powerful than any before me,” they start, the energy around them swelling before they can force it back down, “Only to feel scattered and lost. Before, at least, I had a purpose. Now…” Frustration is clear in their tone and they shake their head.
“I’m here,” Grimm whisper, “Concentrate on me. Just for tonight.”
“ My emotions are all over. I’m every Shade Lord, past and future. I am so many of my siblings and we all are angry . I want to destroy things, Grimm. ”
“You say it like I don’t know what being a Higher Being is like. I know what it’s like to be a ‘ we ’,” Grimm says calmly, nuzzling into one of their tentacles.
The word ‘we’ seems to trigger something and the Shade Lord shifts, the air around them becoming heavy – stronger. When their voice comes into Grimm’s mind again, it’s different. “ We don't have a goal like you. We are eternal. We waited, at the bottom of the world, to come together… ” They seem to grow aggressive, grip tightening before they abruptly relax. “ —But we have small things… ” Their eyes focuses on the rose in Grimm’s eye and the memories of the Grimm before him and the Grimmchild plays through Grimm’s mind. He can feel the love Ghost felt. It startles him at first.
"Small things are how it starts. You keep those close and soon the rest becomes easy,” Grimm pauses, mulling things over before continuing, “Have you seen the Hollow Knight? They’re healing well.”
“ No… We have not. We should. We should thank them. We should ask them to come by themselves. We should ask them why they bother to prolong the kingdom .” The ‘we should’s continue, quieting into a jumbled static as they go through every possibility. The conversation is more within them, than with Grimm now.
Grimm closes the distance between them, placing a hand between their eyes, " Ghost ," he makes sure to call them by the name so they know it's them he’s calling too, not the Shade Lord or any of the other Shades in them. "I'm here. Try focusing on me, instead. Do you remember our first dance?"
He pulls them out of it and their eyes blink, focus drawing to a singular moment. “ I...remember. ” They reply simply, nodding, “ I could never forget. Kingdoms could fall and rise over our head –my head– and I would never forget you or the time we shared. ”
“I will help you however I can, I promise you that. You went above and beyond what the Ritual required of you and I owe you that much at least,” he sighs softly, claws tracing the angles of their head.
“ You do not owe me… Perhaps once, but that debt has been repaid hundreds of times over ,” they insist, leaning into his touch. They forget their size and Grimm stumbles slightly. They catch him with a tendril around his waist, holding him close to their face. “ I...can barely hold myself together, some days. But you make it infinitely easier and I’m sorry I haven’t been able to tell you that until now. I’m...starting to get existing down, I think. ”
He can't help but purr quietly, "Existing is all I ask of you, my dear. Please don't cease that. I wouldn't be able to bare it," He leans in to kiss them gently, perhaps still a bit unsure of what to do with their new form, but his mouth finds theirs despite the size difference. The kiss is ice cold and Ghost leans into it. Grimm opens his mouth to lick along their fangs and a rumbling laugh echos in his mind. He feels it in his chest rather than hearing it. Without warning, his mouth fills with darkness, sticky and thick. A rush of pleasure makes his legs shake.
He growls and despite how cold it is, his body only feels hotter. He places his hands on either side of their head and, deepening the kiss even with the awkwardness of their size. He slips his tongue inside their mouth. Grimm’s eagerness makes them smirk. He’s not afraid of them, even if he should be. It sits strange with the new Shade Lord, unsure how to feel, and although half of them is flattered, the other half feels disrespected. Ghost, however, is used to being at odds with themself and settles on making a game of it.
They pushed their tongue into his mouth. It is thick and penetrating, nearly choking, and Grimm almost whines, jerking back slightly. He’s held in place as they finally back off, pulling him away from them with their tendrils. It’s clear Grimm isn’t used to being put back in his place as his hooded gaze takes them in, breathing labored. He tries to approach them again, hungry, and another tentacle takes grabs his thigh to stop him.
“ You will learn to be cautious ,” they growl playfully, stroking his inner thigh. Grimm can’t even tell if it’s still Ghost talking or not but his head spins because they wouldn’t be doing this if Ghost wasn’t there. He brings his arm up and kisses another tendril that’s hanging onto his wrist.
“Oh? Will I?” He teases back, tongue running across the tendril, “I’ve never been good at being cautious. I tend to get myself killed quite often.”
Their eyes narrow, fangs flashing in a grin. It’s a sudden movement, tentacles taking hold of his legs and tugging his arms behind his back. Grimm lets out a low gasp which quickly turns to a moan as the void curls up his legs and pulls his thighs wide. He can feel the chill against him, his slit already blooming and his breathing shudders despite himself. They do not touch him, though. The tendril around his waist moves down the curve of his ass, gliding over his entrance there.
“Oh…” Grimm manages to sigh, attempting to press himself back into the tentacle but the others tighten around him, preventing any movement. The Shade Lord gives a small growl of warning. The void slicks up his thighs, another tendril just barely moving across his cunt. When he opens his mouth to say another witty remark, one pushes past his fangs, and Grimm, almost literally, chokes on his words. It takes him a moment to figure out how to set his mouth to work by sucking and licking because of the shock of the invasion. He’s rewarded with a low purr from the Shade Lord and the tendril at his ass pressing lightly. Grimm’s eye falls shut, absolutely immobile and aching to be touched.
He can’t speak so instead he forces the thought directly into their mind, “You ignore me for years and now that I’ve finally caught your attention you tease me?”
The Shade Lord looks vaguely amused by the comment, cocking their head to the side. Without warning, the tendril at his ass rams into him, filling him. He moans harshly against the tentacle in his mouth, trying to arch his back in pleasure. Their grip on him tightens, spreading his legs wider. The tendril twists in his hole, stretching him and the one in his mouth pulls out to wipe his own saliva down his neck. Grimm pants, gasping, as he flexes his wrists against his bindings.
“Let me touch you,” he mumbles, head raising to meet their eyes.
“ You are ,” they reply simply, the tendril in his ass sliding out just a bit in demonstration. He hisses at the response, sputtering slightly. They laugh, another tentacle brushing against his dripping cunt. “ You really aren’t used to being put in your place, are you? ”
He shudders, straining against them, “Is-Is that so surprising?”
“ It is...cute. I like seeing you so desperate. I doubt many have seen you like this. ”
Grimm drops his head, a hoarse chuckle shaking his shoulders, “I didn't expect you to be so kinky. That is usually my area of expertise.”
They growl, moving their tentacle inside of him sharply and pressing another into his cunt without warning. His head jerks up as he moans loudly and they can’t help but stroke his cheek. He looks so good at their mercy. The God of Gods isn’t new to getting other Higher Beings to bow to them, but seeing Grimm like this eclipses all other memories. They could get used to this. Perhaps the influence the little Ghost had over the rest of them wasn’t so bad if it meant they could continue to see the Nightmare’s vessel like this.
“S-stop thinking about me like that,” Grimm snarls and Shade Lord blinks, having forgotten their mental bond. They smirk, then, fangs flashing and remind themselves not to let their mental guard down by getting lost in their thoughts around him.
“ Stop? ” They tease and all at once the movements of their tendrils freeze. An abrupt whine leaves him and his face flushes deep red when he realizes the sound he made. Their smirk only grows wider, “ That’s a noise I haven’t heard since you were tiny... ”
He hisses, struggling to no effect, “Don’t get cocky, now.”
“ A bit late for that. ” They pull their tendrils from his ass and cunt before instantly slamming them back in. Grimm’s body rocks from the force and he moans sharply. “ Tight… ” they say and it almost sounds breathless, “ But I know you can take more… ”
“A-and how would you know that?” He pants, eyes falling shut as the tentacles set a cruel and sharp pace. His head is spinning from their voice and the implication that they are getting pleasure from this too drives him so close to the edge that his vision blurs.
“ Your guard is down. I’m just taking a peek through your memories. You sure keep a busy sex life. ” That is for sure Ghost. Grimm doubts the Shade Lord would be this playful. They lean their head close to him as another tendril brushes against his cunt. “ You’re so wet and you aren’t even in heat… ” They purr.
He tosses his head back with a hoarse growl. “You...talk a lot now, don’t you?” His breath hitches as the new tentacle presses inside of him, stretching him wide. A shudder racks his body. He tries to swear, to beg, to say anything , but his throat is too tight.
“ Do you want me to stop talking? ” Their tone is smug, yet another tendril stretching his ass to push inside. Grimm’s cock drips precum steadily. They know how close he is and their eyes take in his leaking fluids hungrily. They lick their lips.
“Gods, no . I...I love hearing you,” his words break off into a moan, his head slumping forward. “ I missed you. So much… ” He can barely speak so instead of trusting his voice he uses his mind.
The Shade Lord shudders this time, reaching their massive hand up to use two fingers to pull Grimm closer, pressing his mouth to theirs again. “ I’m a mess, Grimm, ” they mumble against his mouth without actually saying the words, “ I can’t promise we’ll ever be able to do this again. ”
“But you will try,” he finishes their thought, licking their fangs teasingly. His tongue catches and just a tiny bit of blood ends up in their mouth. Their eyes narrow and a deep purr leaves them.
“ I will try for you. But, please understand, ” they curl their tentacles inside of him and he cries out lowly. “ I have to do this on my own. ”
“Then take me, in earnest, just for tonight.” He is able to jerk his hips slightly due to their distraction, grinding against them. They growl, tightening their grip again, halting his movements seconds before he’s able to get himself off. His cock jerks against his own stomach, painfully hard and untouched.
“ You’re mine for tonight ,” their voice is low again, changed, but Grimm still quivers in pleasure. His cunt tightens and he presses his head between their eyes, legs shaking.
“I’m close,” he whispers, voice strained. “Can you feel it?”
“ Yes ,” they sound breathless too, tentacles moving out of pace with each other. Another brushes just barely against his cock and it’s like fireworks to his nerves. He curses in several languages and they chuckle softly. They slow their movements yet again, keeping him right on the edge constantly. “ Not yet, though .” Not until they got to see him like this a bit longer. He lets out a desperate whimper. “ Can you take more for me? ”
“For you?” He nips under their chin, trying to catch his breath, “Of course.”
They groan this time, a mix of a growl and a hiss. They hadn’t meant to get so aroused by this but with Ghost’s voidheart at their core, it’s a helpless fight. They are strangely careful when they slide two more slick tendrils into his cunt, twisting them so he’s filled. A final one squeezes into his ass and Grimm’s eye rolls back in pleasure. They can’t help but admire him, impaled and writhing on them. They push the image into his mind so he can see himself dripping down their tentacles. He’s soaked and he hasn’t even came yet.
He gasps at the sight of himself, face flushed and cunt clenching. They can’t hold themselves back, then, seeing his shocked face and they thrust their tendrils honestly. His raspy moans fill the air and they can’t keep an even pace with both holes spasming around them. It’s erratic and hard, marks blooming under their grip around his limbs and waist. The mess of black and pink fluids makes the Shade Lord dizzy. They can tell he’s holding back, though, shaking and heavy breathing with his eyes twisted shut. They know he probably just doesn’t want to lose them again but–
“ Let go ,” they whisper, wrapping a tendril around his cock. “ I’ve got you. Let me see you lose control .”
Grimm lets out a snarl that drops off into a moan and they loosen their grip on him. They squeeze his cock, milking him as his whole body is rocked with his orgasm. They can’t help but growl, watching as he shudders and shakes. Their own orgasm is more mental but they make sure to leave their mark by filling him with their void. It’s bitterly cold, which only forces him to clench tighter as another orgasm follows instantly. He can’t keep his body still, twisting in pleasure as the Shade Lord whispers to him. It’s too intense and he finds himself blacking out from the feelings, their voice echoing all around him.
At first Grimm thinks it had been a dream. (And wouldn’t that be embarrassing? The Nightmare King would never let him live that down.) He finds himself washed back ashore. The Void once again keeps its distance. But when he moves, he’s sticky and sore, some void residue still clinging to him. They could have at least cleaned him off, he huffs.
Grimm isn’t sure if it was even Ghost but Ghost is in there somewhere or their emotions wouldn’t have influenced the Shade Lord in that way. He just has to figure out how better to draw Ghost free. To allow them full control over the other shades.
If not him, family maybe? Blood is thicker than water as they say. Deeper than the love they had perhaps. He stands shakily. A goal then. They had said they had to do it alone, but Grimm won’t let them face this alone. And he doubts Hornet or the Hollow Knight would let them either.
And having another reunion like that wouldn’t be half bad… He smirks.