He is still young 18 maybe, and the first thing that catches her eye is his mouth. It's generous and pretty even, especially when he smiles.
She had been in the pit years before he arrived, and could not recall a single honest smile. Not even from her mother.
What kind of man smiles in hell?
He catches the eye of the other prisoners too, they want to break him. They want to break him like they want to break her. The first time someone tries he crushes his hand with one swift movement. After the second man looses an eye they stop trying, and still he smiles.
He follows her and her mother then. Stakes the claim but never collects. Just watches, circles, waits.
She watches in return, bright-eyed and sharp. She is small but he can see her blood turning cold already. That's not right. Children should be protected from the cold. He helps her, and by extension her mother. He builds them fires, sneaks her food. Keeps the other prisoners at bay with squared shoulders and warning looks. He tries and tries to make her smile back.
She is always studying him chewing him over in her mind. She reminds him of the jackals he saw out in the desert. Underestimated for their size, he would not make that mistake
Instead he'd set her free.
She repays him in kind.
When her father brings him home she wishes she could believe he will be whole. When she first sees him he is more bruise and scar tissue than human. She touches him gently, his hands, his chest, his face, she wants to press against him to listen for his heart but her father will not allow it.
Instead she settles for the harsh breathing through a crude mask strapped to his face. He rasps a word she cannot make out before succumbing to the pain.
She does not see his smile any more; a new permanent mask is put in place. His mouth is now a constant snarl of tubes and metal. He looks not man, but not animal. He is something in between, something her father hates.
Later when she is older he allows her to shave for him.
He holds the breathing mask to his face as she begins their new ritual. Slowly she drags the straight razor along his scalp removing lather and straw blond hair. She is careful of what is left of his right ear.
"Vultures have bald heads so blood does not clot in their feathers as they feed." She tells him the first time.
He laughs and presses his face to her shoulder.
Removing the stubble is harder. He takes a deep breath and holds it until his eyes water from the pain. They pause so he can breathe again.
The job is quick, not much still grows on the pale stretch of scars from his damaged ear to his torn mouth. She wipes off the lather and kisses him once. He is so startled he does not get the mask back on properly the first time.
"Jackal." His voice is almost scolding. He has never called her anything but her name. The warmth in this idea curls around her spine and throws her as far as she threw him.
The next time he brings her the razor.
"So my feathers do not clot when I feed."
They are like this for months, until she decides to stay one night. Curl beside him to share his warmth. He wakes her with a nightmare. One hand gripping her hip, the other nearly crushing her wrist. She endures until he startles awake, his eyes wet. He murmurs apologies and strokes her hair until she is asleep again.
After the second nightmare she shoulders for him, her father catches the bruising on her arm and forms his own conclusions.
He sends him away. Now she has nightmares, dreams of the pit. Of fire and cruel men. She has to find him or she will never sleep again.
When she does find him she touches him like she did when her father brought him home. This time there is no one to stop her from pressing herself to his chest to hear his heart. There is no one to stop him from running his hand up her leg. No one to hear them when there is no space left between them for nightmares and pain and she is warm enough at last.
She hates her father, until she hears of his death. Then her cold blood burns. Together they seize the Demon and they plan.
They will prey on Gotham. Strip it to the bone and let it's bleached skeleton serve as warning. He will follow her there, circle, wait for her to settle deep inside. They will never see it coming, and they are too bloated to run.
The Jackal will spill blood, and the Vulture will feed.