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At least the upshot of the priest getting wounded, is that he finally allows Zach to take care of him a little. For someone who prides himself on being all mild and modest, he can also be spectacularly stubborn. It's probably one of the reasons that he's actually successful with the difficult cases he works with, but Zach doesn't care about that. He'll just have to keep in mind that the victory will be all the sweeter in the end. For now, though, he plays the part of helpful human youth. He can feel how the priest carefully avoids showing any of his earlier discomfort at his undressed state. It's still a far cry from the reaction he would prefer, but he'll take it over the blushing maiden act from before. At least he knows the man won't try to aggravate his wounds in an attempt to dress himself, lest Zach will think that he rejects him for his supposed sexuality. Small victories, he supposes.

~It's a relief to enter the dreamscape. In spite of everything, this still feels natural to him. The physical world always feels heavy and unmoving compared do the shifts and twists of the fabric of dreams. Zach doesn't reveal himself to Kiel just yet, and takes a few moments to just let the dream settle around him. He lets it flow past him for a small indulgent moment, the wind twirling and grain rustling as he weaves himself into the dream as if he belongs there. In a certain sense, he supposes he does.

Once he looks for it, it's immediately clear that Kiel is the centre of the field, the trees at the edge disappearing and reforming as he moves through the projected landscape. There's a sense of peace in the air, but Zack can feel it tense and stretch at moments, the dream vibrating on the cusp of something darker before being pulled back into the light by Kiel's will alone. There's something there, and Zach knows that he should be digging into it, should be pushing the atmosphere to that point of avoidance until Kiel can't help but be dragged into it. He want's to do it to, is prepared to do it.

It's just....

The priest's had a rough day to begin with. While he would usually welcome that and poke at the sore points that stress made easier to reach, this time it just didn't seem the best option. He wanted the priest to be comfortable with him, didn't he? And he did just attempt a personal revelation in the physical world. He doesn't want the priest to associate that sort of thing with nightmares or bad memories. Yeah, that makes sense. He'll save the poking around for another time then.

Mind made up, he starts adjusting the dream to move away from this particular scene. The shadowy trees on the edge out slowly disappear, and the grain gradually shifts into a simple grassy field. In the distance he plants the image of a single tree, similar to the one they sat beneath in other dreams. A little peaceful sanctuary.~
Zach is pleasantly surprised when the priest moves in for a hug, especially when he was so uncomfortable with the touching before. The hair-petting is a little condescending, but he supposes he will take what he can get. He makes sure to stay tense for a few long moments, before eventually relaxing into the hug. He even brings up his arms to return the hug, though he keeps it light for now. It's good that Kiel still wants to help, even though that help seems to come with a heap of infantilization for now. As shown by the slightly teasing question that follows.

"Yeah priest, I know how to make hot leaf juice," Zach rolls his eyes. He knows it won't make him look any older, but he can't be perfect. When he heads to the kitchen area, Sarah appears in the doorway of the spare room, eyes wide and haunted. She makes a beeline for Kiel, burying her face in his shirt without saying a word.

Zach takes the opportunity to busy himself with putting the kettle on. He makes a hot cup of tea for Kiel, and then a smaller one that he cools with milk and a little honey for Sarah. She also gets a cookie to go with it when he brings it to them, but he doesn't stick around while the priest works his calming magic on the girl. He likes using her as a contrast to make the priest see how he is not a 'little one', but that can wait until she feels better.

Instead he sets to taking out some sheets and pillows to make up a bed for himself on the couch. He'd enjoyed the chance to get close to the priest before, and the bet had payed off. It had also made it clear just how much he was not ready to see Zach as an equal. So distance it would be, for now at least. Just until Kiel was in the right frame of mind to actually enjoy the closeness Zach would eventually pursue.

He's still going to slip into his dreams, of course. Just because he's changing his tactics, doesn't mean he can't satisfy his curiosity along the way.
Autharyx turns his hand as the tail moves, letting the soft fur trail over the sensitive skin of his palm and wrist. The appendage is still fascinating to him, but it becomes easier and easier to just let it do what it wants without wanting to reach back as much. It's still tempting, especially since Viltez had admitted it felt good to be touched there. But the memory of how anxious he got about feeling overwhelmed is enough to keep his curiosity in check. Is this how mortals feel the time, all concerned about how the other will feel? It seems rather tedious, but then he supposes it doesn't feel tedious with Viltez.

At the beast-man's words, he can't help but stare at him with a quiet intensity. He thinks back to being in the forest with Viltez, to how the spirits and energy around them had woken up and been set abuzz. Viltez might not be consciously aware of it, but he is clearly very much in tune with the whispers he's now talking about. It kind of reminds him of the few temple guardians that he'd bothered to take a shine to. He's briefly struck by the image of Viltez kneeling at his shrine, tail lazily sweeping back and forth in the light of a rising sun as his clever fingers lighting incense over a freshly prepared sacrifice. The stab of possessiveness is familiar by now, and he indulges in it only briefly before shoving it to the back of his mind with what is quickly becoming practiced ease.

"You are truly extraordinary," he says when he's sure it won't come out as a growl. His voice is still rough and low, but human enough. He kind of wants to get in close, to press Viltez up against the nearest wall and press his nose into the crook of his neck to scent him- remind himself that he is here, that Autharyx is right here with him. He wants to lean into him, work his hand under his shirt to feel the heat of his skin and dare him to touch Autharyx as well. It seems... impolite though, so he swallows the impulse down and turns back to his food.

"It's good soup," he says only a little awkwardly. "I can clean up after, if you like?"
Zach keeps his posture tense as Kiel talks, keeps his face sceptical. Even so with every kind word the priest utters, he lets a little bit more hope creep into his expression, just a tantalising hint of vulnerability that will hopefully leave the priest wanting more. He is starting to realise that he is going to have to adapt his strategy slightly from his usual approach. Normally he just had to have his marks see him as something they could take, and they would be all to happy to let him have his way with them. It was even easier with the self-righteous hypocrites- most of them were active looking for excuses to take advantage of something or someone they wanted. At first Zach had thought it would be much the same with this priest.

But Kiel is genuinely invested in the well-being of his little wards, even though Zach still thinks there must be some personal reason for his more self-sacrificial tendencies. Right now, Zach is too close, too far within his reach. Where other might feel emboldened by a combination of desire and opportunity, Kiel didn't even seem to make space for anything resembling desire as long as he felt there was even a theoretical opportunity to 'take advantage'. And then there was the whole priestly celibacy complex to contend with. Though if he was willing to look past the common hysteria about homosexuality, Zach was pretty sure he could be convinced to let go of those scruples as well.

But first there would need to be distance. The priest fancies himself a proper mother hen, and as long as Zach is smothered under those metaphorical wings he's going to be stuck with the useless 'little one' label. But before he can take that distance, he had to make sure that Kiel will want to keep engaging with him, and for that dangling the allure of healing his poor injured soul seems as good a bait as any.

"Wow, I guess you really are a giant softie, aren't you?" he says, letting his voice crack a bit in 'genuine emotion' even as he makes sure to keep up the image of a posturing young man.

"It's a miracle they haven't fired you yet for, you know, actually caring about people? Seems to be something they usually hope to avoid," he jokes weakly, rubbing his neck to show embarrassment at the sincerity of the moment.

"But really though... That's... You're very kind. Thank you." There, another hint at something genuine, there if Kiel ever wants to reach out to him.

Autharyx feels his chest puff up with pride at the deluge of compliments and interest. It is exhilarating to have Viltez show admiration and curiosity towards, well, him. It makes him want to preen and gloat and show Viltez exactly how beautiful and powerful he is. And he will, just not quite yet.

Even through his pride he realises that 'actually I was talking about myself the whole time' is probably not the best way to go. It's not even about whether Viltez will believe him- of course he will. It's more that... well, that will be putting their acquaintance in a bit of a different light, won't it? It will mean owning up to lying up until now, and it will probably mean the end of this sense of... equality that they seem to have going. Autharyx would have never guessed he would prefer equality to lording over someone, but that's the position he finds himself in right now. Best to take a bit more time to let Viltez get to know him, and then when he does show his true self it will be a bonus rather than a shock!

"Sadly, it hasn't interacted with humans directly in many generations," he says in response to the beast-man's enthusiastic questions. Pretending he spent a lot of time talking to himself felt like stretching the 'lying by omission' a bit too far. Instead he chooses to talk as truthfully as he can manage, carefully talking around all the bits that would reveal more than he is willing to part with right now.

"The shrine has fallen into disrepair over the ages, and in the end I did not want to be chained to a place rooted in a past gone by when there was a world beyond the lake for me to explore. I do intend to go back eventually, of course. I suppose in the end I will always be tied to that place." He turns to glance out the window in contemplation, the sky looking small and distant from this still-unfamiliar perspective.

"It seems the world is no longer one of dragons and spirits, as it was long ago."
Zack frowns, making sure to give the expression a suspicious edge as well.

"You... don't? I thought you... You're not fucking with me, are you?" He says carefully, mind working quickly as he tries to figure out how to spin this. If he tried to wave it off, perhaps the priest would get curious and try to figure it out a bit more. Of course he might very well get some sort of noble idea in his head about 'respecting his privacy' and then there would just be the spectre of a secret hanging between them creating more distance. No, perhaps he should just out with it and take the chance to give the priest the sense that he is being trusted with something. Showing vulnerability will probably reinforce the 'little one' bullshit for a bit, but at least there would be the appearance of a foundation of trust to work from.

"You don't have to do anything to make me feel unwelcome here," he starts off haltingly, "there's been plenty of so called 'holy men' before who made that exceedingly clear to me." He crosses his arms in front of him, as if to steel himself for rejection. Kiel seems to like breaking through emotional barriers, so lets give him one to break through.

"The truth is, I don't belong here. I'm headed straight to hell and perdition or whatever. Supposedly." He shifts uncomfortably in place, breaking eye contact for a moment then looking back at the priest as if steeling himself for rejection.

"Yeah, your fellow priests were always very clear on the 'hell' part. On account of all the sleeping around with men, you know? Really bad for my eternal soul or whatever." He's staring at Kiel now, face hard and brittle underneath- the very picture of someone expecting rejection but still hanging onto a little sliver of hope.
The priest is all but radiating a patronising sort of concern for his feelings, and while it should by all accounts annoy the shit out of Zach, he can't help but crack a bit of a smile at the familiarity of it. Annoying as it is, he can't help but be endeared by the sheer persistence of the man in the help he wants to offer his 'little one's'. There's probably quite a few humans that are genuinely honest in their motives, but Zach usually doesn't have the pleasure of meeting them. Not to say that he doesn't enjoy the more sinful and depraved side of humans- on the contrary! It's just interesting in it's novelty, if nothing else.

"Yes priest, you are very caring and selfless and all that shit- no need to convince me even further." He rolls his eyes and helps the priest get his arm in his sleeve with a care that belies his words.

"You probably believe what you say too, all you religious types seem to do. But don't think I didn't notice you being all... stiff and weird after tonight. I don't know if you guessed or if you talked to someone, but I know what you 'good' book says about... people like me. You don't have to force yourself to be all forgiving and shit if you're just going to be weird about it later." He makes sure to inject just enough covered-up hurt to make it all the more tantalising for the priest to want to break his wall down again.

Of course the man has no idea what he's talking about. He is pretty sure Kiel hasn't figured out yet that Zack had cheerfully slept his way through an impressive list of guys in the months before he ended up on the priest's doorstep. And if he wasn't going to figure it out on his own, Zach would have to tell him himself. And what better way than to pretend to assume he already knew?
"That... sounds like a lot," Autharyx says, putting on a face that he hopes is suitably sympathetic. He's kind of at a loss at this topic of conversation, sharply feeling all the cultural connotations and context that he's missing. What do fathers even mean in mortal culture? Autharyx himself certainly never gave much thought to who he came from, but viltez certainly seems... sad? About being left? He did say he was old enough to care for himself when he was, though, so perhaps this was a normal part of the mortal coming of age process?

Thankfully he was saved from having to continue a thread of conversation he knew absolutely nothing about by Viltez' next question. He really should have seen something like that coming, but it still caught hims off guard. If the beast-man had asked him what he 'was like' he would have been able to talk a little about his strength and his connection to the world- perhaps even the treasures he collected. But 'looked like'... that was not something he'd ever really thought about in mortal terms, beyond the impression of awe and fear he liked to leave on mortals.

"It's a dragon," he starts out slowly, trying to remember what he'd heard humans say about him in the past.

"They say its scale shine like the reflection of sun on water, and its mane is dark like the heart of a storm cloud. It is wingless, but that does not matter when one is part of the energy flows that make up the world, and when it storms it twists through the clouds and catches the lightning with its horns." That sounded like something humans might say, didn't it?
The priest says he's fine. And sure, there's no immediately visible danger or something that he can see- but that doesn't have to mean anything with humans. They're such... fragile little things when it comes down to it. They don't make their own bodies, and as such they're dreadfully unaware of how they're put together and how they work. If Zach would manage to break a rib, he would know. It comes with having a body that he consciously shapes himself. With humans... He's heard enough stories on the street to know that 'I feel fine' can still lead to plenty of unforeseen complications- some deadly.

All of this flicks through his mind in mere moments, and he realises he's been frowning for several seconds at least.

He sighs and sets the first aid kit down again.

"Fine. Just... can you at least try to not overextend yourself? On purpose at least?" The priest is radiating waves of discomfort at having some skin exposed, and Zach didn't want to make him all uncomfortable just so he could be at peace that the man wasn't bleeding internally or whatever other way human bodies could mess up. Whatever relief came with confirming that he was okay would undoubtedly be tainted by the jerky sense of discomfort Zach could already feel skittering under his skin. It was usually easier to shrug off unwanted human emotions, but it was now biting him in the ass that he'd been getting more attuned to the priest over time.

"Can I at least help you getting dressed for bed, or is that too much touching as well?" He adds sharply. He's been drawn into worrying about the human, but that doesn't mean anything. He's can't forget his mission and this just makes it more clear he needs the priest to stop putting him in the same mental category as Sarah. He keeps up the narrowed eyes for a moment, then lets out a deep sigh, relaxing his shoulders and rubbing his eyes.

"Shit, sorry, forget what I said, okay? That's not fair of me. You've been very kind to me and not all... 'religious' or whatever and it doesn't matter that you don't like me around. It's fine. I'm fine."
Whatever inkling of shame he might have felt at the lie falls away at hearing Viltez say his name. Even cut off from everything as he is compared to Autharyx, Viltez seems to know the weight there can be in a name and the sound of it on the beast man's lips cuts right through to the core of him. For just a moment, he feels seen- feels known- and that thought send a shiver of delight down his spine.

He wants to hear it again- wants to have Viltez know that it is him that he's praising as an 'incredible being'. He wants to show Viltez what he is, what he can do. Wants to take him to his chambers under the lake and show off his vast collection of treasures, to set him up amidst jewels and gold and silver and have him look at him with awe. To pin him down with his arms, or his claws until Viltez cannot but realise that he's his.

Then he blinks and the moment passes, leaving him feeling slightly off-balance in the wake of it. Never in his long existence has he felt bad about indulging in his whims and desires. Who was anyone to stand in his way if he had the power to take what he wanted? And yet... while the thought of stealing Viltez away for himself was undeniably a good one, somehow he couldn't help but try and picture how Viltez would look at finding out Autharyx had been lying to him. He wouldn't even be all that angry about it, would he? Just... resigned. Even though he was easily the most interesting creature in this village, the beast-man had seemed surprised every time Autharyx stated that simple fact in one way or another.

Logically, the feelings of mortals just didn't mean as much as his own- not even a mortal as fascinating as Viltez was proving to be. And still the thought of somehow... hurting him sat wrong with Autharyx. As did the thought of failing to consider what he himself might want. It was... a novel kind of feeling for him, and he was pretty sure he didn't like it.

With Viltez still right there and smiling brightly at him, though, it was simple enough to push these complicated thoughts aside to smile in answer.

"It does," he finally says, "I am very lucky indeed. And what about 'Viltez'? Do you have a namesake or are you the first of your name?"
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