There were two rules in the spirit realm that must never be broken.
One: A soul, once assigned, is not to leave the human, Sentinel, Guide, Cerberus or Shield they have become a part of.
Two: Once a Sentinel-Guide or Cerberus-Shield pairs up, it is the duty of the former to protect the latter and viceversa.
The very recently-implemented third rule was due to Kuryakin's Cerberus and Solo's Shield souls.
Three: Do not, under any circumstance aside from meditation or near-death, reveal thyself.
Cerberus souls were dark, inky things that took many years to form in the spirit realm. The soul intended for the child known as Illya Kuryakin had been formed decades prior and now only waited for it's turn to become part of the mortal realm. It noticed a bright silvery Shield that was clearly picking out a mortal form from what it could see with it's small light to shine through the fog between realms.
Rumbling softly, it nosed under the tiny Shield to boost it. The Shield grumbled but shone brighter at the Cerberus's attention.
Little one, what are you looking for?
A small form. Something sleek but still strong. The Shield muttered as it glowed in intervals. Cerberus prodded at the fog with it's own ink and a form revealed itself. Perfect! The Shield paused and asked quietly, Would... Would you like to be my Cerberus?
There are plenty of Sentinels... It protested.
Want you, silly. The glowing fox insisted. You helped me find my form when no other soul was looking.
Very well. I accept you as my Shield. It sighed, allowing the fox to nip it into a vaguely canine form. You want us to match?
No, the coy reply had a low growl reverberating from the Cerberus. only sort of the same shape.
The Cerberus thought about it and pushed itself into the form it was rather fond of, though it wasn't entirely as whole as the Shield. Thin, inky wisps trailed the lupine Cerberus soul as it followed it's own Shield back into the spirt realm's dull greys and deeper shadows than itself.
When Illya Kuryakin was born, the Cerberus soul became something... more. It shifted to he and he was gifted with a similar name; Kuric.
Kuric watched his new charge diligently, nosing him away from threats such as the stove and around the meeker souls of both human parents. Both souls were companionable with Kuric but not affectionate; they were too afraid of his Cerberus status to get close.
Kuric stayed with Illya through the death of his Father and then his Mother, wrapping his charge in his scariest form to chase away anyone he didn't think was good enough for Illya.
They chose the KGB as much as the KGB chose them. He thought it worth the risk of being labeled Sentinel if he could find his Shield. Cerberus and Shield souls had been declining even before Kuric's assignment but he didn't think there were so few Shields that they were practically non-existent.
When the KGB brought out Guides in an attempt to control them, Kuric was furious.
You are not ours! Timid, pale imitations of our little one. You crack and cry under only a brush of our whole self. Kuric snarled, half-formed and looking more like an obsidian statue than a comforting presence. Get out of our sight!
You can't pick your pairing! one Guide insisted, the glow weakening as he tried to touch Kuric with his feline form. Kuric refused to form at all after the fourth Guide. His inky mass, as large and intimidating as his match, stretched and yawed into a vortex not many dared to step close to.
We chose many years ago, cat, and we will accept no other. Kuric fired back coldly.
The feline limped away, the crackle of broken Guide energy only making Kuric ache for his little Shield.
Three years and a meteoric rise to the best assignments the KGB had to offer only appeased Kuric for so long. He kept Illya company through varied environments, his paws never leaving a trace as the spirit and mortal realms collided in places with blood. Kuric often helped the injured souls back into the grey to recover.
This one was high in the Caucus Mountain Range, the blood soaking the white drifts a deep crimson that froze on contact. Illya watched it meander over the snow impassively while collecting a souvenir for the confirmation. Kuric loped over to the sparking, gasping soul and helped her to her feet.
Why do you help, Cerberus? the heavily built elk asked as she was escorted back to the spirit realm. Is there something besides your darkness?
My... Shield would do the same, regardless of the type of soul, I think. Kuric replied quietly as he laid out the quivering soul to rest in the lightest patch of grey he could find. Recover and find your match in the future.
I must return.
You are welcome.
East Berlin was a disaster—scratch that—a beautiful disaster. Kuric had, for a fraction of a moment, seen his Shield.
Their superior's soul (a graceful leonine presence) stared at Kuric with censure in her gaze. She stalked forward into his space and used the same line of questioning from the mortal realm.
What happened out there? You are the best of the best! Heightened senses and you lose our only lead. she growled as she paced in front of him.
I will not deny we lost the woman. Kuric murmured as Illya did, save his answer differed slightly. I saw our Shield.
I saw our Shield. he repeated stubbornly. I do not know if it belonged to the man or the woman.
You do not know which it was? The lioness softened briefly in sympathy. She pinned Kuric's molten ink form with an assessing stare instead.
No. I refrained from attacking either to be safe. Kuric argued as he wrapped an inky strand around his charge to keep Illya from punching their superior.
I will try to keep my match from exiling yours from the KGB just yet. She allowed with a grumbling acquiescence.
But? Always a caveat with the KGB.
If you find out which one, kill the other.
Kuric would do no such thing but his silence seemed confirmation enough.
He settled in for a long chase of his Shield if it was necessary. The transport to their new assignment was tense, seeing as their escort was a Sentinel-Sentinel set; rare but not impossible in this mortal realm.
Kuric knew that the impossible happened because he'd seen his Shield.
Does Kuryakin even have a soul?
I really wouldn't poke to see if there was. This guy did tear off a car trunk. came the retort of the more experienced, stronger Sentinel.
Not natural to have that much control.
It isn't for a pair like you. Kuric drawled as he unfurled his entire self in the van. Speak and tread carefully in the realm you do not know so well. You're only here to keep us from killing the American partner they sent.
I told you to stop talking like that. The solemn deep grey hawk hissed at the cocky dog form. He is an idiot, after all. I would ask that you forgive his insult and accept our apology.
I will. Kuric loomed heavily over the dog form until the van door opened, loping next Illya with his elongated lupine frame just touching the surface of the mortal realm with his shadows. It gave Illya greater presence and often intimidated weaker souls into backing down.
Shit. The Cerberus?! The one that took forever to form and he's in that human? Match made indeed...
The human from East Berlin sent Illya's heart into double-time and Kuric searched for the soul that belonged to the man. Quicksilver struck Kuric's side and snarled ferociously, going for his jugular again and again, not daunted by his size nor his strength.
Stay away from my Human, you—Cerberus!
Kuric's wide maw snapped shut so quickly that if he'd been mortal the movement would have caused his teeth to ache.
My Shield. My ferocious, brave little one. Kuric crooned, wrapping all of himself around the still small Shield. Your name?
Midnighter, though you can call me Night. No similarity to my human, save his habits. You? The darker, softer gaze lingered on Kuric's tangled shadows that curled into ridiculous mortal shapes for affection.
Kuric. An alternative to his last name. He murmured as he watched their humans duke it out. They certainly will take some time to come together.
What makes you say that? Night pressed as he licked Kuric's ink into a smoother form.
My Illya... He has gone through much to be who he is now. Yours will change him, of that I am sure, but it must be slow or it will not help my charge at all. Kuric's relieved to be talking to a soul that would understand his plight.
The same could be said for my Napoleon. He has suffered as well, cut down to only his ability to do things for others. He is a world unto himself and no one has yet to see through the veneer he projects. I worry over him but there is nothing I can do aside from guarding him from that atrocious Sanders' soul. Disgusting cretin. Night sighed as he buried his nose into Kuric's fur.
What is it? he asked purely for curiosity's sake and then he saw it. The perfectly manicured poodle belonged to only one individual in the room and he was eyeing Illya and Napoleon with something akin to condescension. Shall I put the fear of the Light into that one, my fox?
I doubt it would do my Napoleon any good. We're still attatched to the CIA for another five years. Night huffed. Go before he sees us together. Your superior too.
I will be close by, my fox. Kuric nuzzled against Night once more before slipping back into the spirit realm and close to Illya's side.
The poodle started violently at his appearance. So the Russian does have a soul. I thought he didn't.
Kuric grinned with a mouthful of far too many sharp teeth. I was chosen specifically for him. His silver eyes practically narrowed into slits as he continued lightly, I don't care much for human soul but I'll eat it if necessary.
You-You cannibal! The horrified poodle took a few steps back as Kuric licked his chops.
Not a cannibal. Opportunistic hunter, is all. he murmured as he settled down for the talk the humans were currently having.
The poodle stuck to his human like mortal glue even after the plans were made.
Kuric considered it a job well-done, even if his Shield had not specifically asked for it.
Gaby Teller was amazing; her soul her equal in every quality. The bear was enormous but smart and incredibly perceptive.
Ella, before you ask. She offered politely as she watched their three interact through the sheer curtain of the spirit realm that afforded them invisibility.
Kuric. He answered in reply to her unspoken question and she snorted.
As direct as your counterpoint. Good. Is that one yours? Ella questioned as Night nipped at Kuric's more sturdy tendrils that never quite left his form, no matter how elegantly he wove it.
He is. Night, are you done yet? Kuric inquired as the silvery form wriggled like a cat before his fangs clipped scant centimeters from the largest of Kuric's wisps.
You are hard to keep into a shape, you know, Night grumbled as he nosed under Kuric's leg and sat in between the sturdy limbs look at Ella. Hello. The flirtatious tone mimicked the mortal realm and Kuric rumbled softly in confusion. I mean nothing by it.
I know. Ella's laughing tone had Kuric looking down at Night and shaking his great head. Mated?
Not yet. Our charges have yet to do anything about the tension that could be cut with a knife. Kuric mentioned.
We chose one another before the mortal realm picked us. Night explained. We got separated and only now met up again.
And now you're technically on the wrong side of the other.Ella concluded succinctly.
... We have to be careful, yes, but I cannot bear the thought of leaving him again. I was supposed to have killed the soul that was not my fox. Kuric dryly added. The KGB does not take kindly to failure and yet there was no promise, only the implication that I must. I did not answer but they believed my silence for agreement.
Ella laughed, her dark eyes twinkling with mirth. Oh you are just as wily as your fox. The Vinciguerras will have no idea what hit them.
He felt his Shield scream from miles away. It echoed and rebounded until Kuric over-rode his charge for the first time in a long time.
They moved with a deadly swiftness, dispatching their enemies with a cold expression. Their sync-rate was at an all-time high as Kuric slipped from Illya's mind to hunt down the twisted soul that had hurt their Shield.
It was more white than grey, the evidence clear in the broken connection that left it a gibbering wreck. It giggled when it saw him, the form suggesting some kind of horse had it been entirely whole.
Hello, pretty shadow.
Kuric lost his shape, all of him equally furious as he ripped through what remained of Rudi Teller's soul.
You do not deserve to return to the realms. The fact that the body died in the contraption was just icing on the very satisfying revenge cake. So vulnerable, my Night. That may be the start of something for them.
It might. Ella and Gaby are in danger though. We mustn't linger.
... Of course. Kuric watched as Night loped on ahead with his small paws barely brushing the barrier between realms. Napoleon's gaze tracked Night unconsciously, brief confusion flickering across his face.
-Vinciguerra Island; Chase for Gaby-
Kuric lunged for Vinciguerra's soul, a mess of an Italian greyhound that was headed for Night's injured paw. Gleaming jet claws caught the grey soul directly the ribs, ripping into it and coming out covered in dribbling, crackling silver.
Illya dropped the motorcycle on top of Vinciguerra at the same time, crushing any chance of the soul recovering either itself or the match it had.
I warned you! Touch my fox and I would make you wish I had mercy! Kuric snarled as he stood over Night, his frame fully formed and spiky enough to deter even the stupidest of souls.
He's just so pretty... My mate wanted him for her own. I wanted to see him die. It coughed as Kuric bristled.
Kuric, look. Night pushed at his non-soaked paw to point out the connection between Vinciguerra and the greyhound fading at an alarming rate. You don't need to do anymore. The realm will take care of them both.
He hurt you... Kuric whined as he nosed against Night's chest fur.
You paid it back in full, darling. Night promised as he limped up to Ella. Are you alright?
As alright as we can be, considering we got kidnapped. Ella snorted as she stepped around the dying soul.
What about the information? He didn't care one way or another which country got it but he worried over Night and Ella.
Later, my Cerberus. Night looks exhausted in the worst sort of way, dark eyes weary and hurt. Please.
Kuric's wisps gathered Night close to him, cradling the tiny fox body to his much larger frame. If that is your desire, my fox. For now we will regroup and recover, yes?
-Hotel in Rome, Napoleon's Balcony-
Illya's mind was conflicted and Kuric waited patiently as Napoleon handed back the one thing that they'd kept for their family. His charge reigned in the murderous intent and waited for Napoleon's solution.
What a lovely bonfire it was.
When Gaby joined them and so did their new supervisor, Waverly, Kuric relaxed his grip on Illya. The gyrfalcon was a human soul but a mix of equal dark shadow and light silver.
Welcome to the recently-formed organization of U.N.C.L.E. I am Vee. I look forward to working with each of your talents. she murmured while perched on her human's shoulder.
Likewise. He rumbled from the very edge of the mortal realm. Vee only looked amused at his tactic of hiding himself within Illya until just the right moment. Night wasn't looking at him but Kuric's wisps were curled in vague notions of hearts on the side where Night was closest; he was sure Vee noticed.
Kuric held onto the hope that this was the start to something more.