Hello, lovelies. It's Friday once again, and I finished this in one day. Hopefully, you can't tell hahaha

Anyway, this chapter does mention religion, and I am making no comments on that. I know it can be a subject of debate, so I will try to steer away from the topic. This is probably the only chapter that deals with it explicitly. It just seemed like an interesting plot point, if you understand.

Hope you guys like it, give me your opinions!

Quotes are from End Of All Days by 30 Seconds to Mars.

"A maniac's new love song, destruction is his game."

Chapter 13: Degeneration

My head was hurting.

There was a pounding in my temples as I lifted my head slowly. My whole body felt sore and uncomfortable, and I realized why when I tried to lift my hands to massage my temples. They were tied behind my back, my ankles also tied together, and my head had been resting on my chest. The metal chair I was sat on was far from comfortable to begin with.

My eyes burned as soon as I tried to open them. There seemed to be a bright light directly above me that caused me to squint my eyes. I could see nothing at first, just a dark shape in front of me that slowly took the silhouette of a man.

The Joker was sitting in front of me in another chair. He was leaning forward with his forearms on his knees, a shining blade held in both hands, his head bent as he looked down at it. The sudden brightness was still hurting my eyes, but once they adjusted I looked around.

The space around us looked large and empty, abandoned like one of the warehouses on the outer edges of the city. The only light came from a lightbulb above us, keeping us in a circle of clarity while everything beyond looked dark as night and just as menacing.

To be honest, despite the fact that the clown was intimidating, I hadn't been afraid of him because of his gleeful nature and sarcastic quips. But when he slowly lifted his head and stared at me with the most serious expression I had seen on his face, I had never been more terrified in my life. His expression didn't change as he studied my face.

"'From this slumber, she shall wake when true love's kiss the spell shall break*,'" the Joker said before laughing, but not like his usual shrieks of glee. His voice was low and taunting in its own right. He was truly scaring me.

"'A wise girl kisses but does not love*2,'" I replied hoarsely, making him cackle this time. I shifted in my seat, feeling a little less afraid. Once his laughter died down, the Joker continued to stare at me with an evident curiosity in his face. "Why am I here?"

"You can get me easy money," he easily replied, shrugging. I wasn't even sure if he realized it or not, but his hands never stopped caressing the blade he held lovingly, almost as though it were an unconscious action, a habit. My eyes followed the movement of his long fingers.

"You don't need the money," I stated, watching the blade that was obviously well-taken care of. "I think, with the bank robbery, you proved you don't need to resort to this petty kidnapping shit. You're smarter than a common criminal."

The Joker studied her as she spoke before he burst into laughter.

"I didn't know Bruce Wayne's girlfriend was a fan of mine," he cackled. I shrugged lightly.

"I don't admire what you did or why you did it," I corrected him, studying him. "What I applaud is the way you did it. It was… innovative, to say the least."

Daniela was nineteen years old when she decided she needed to get away from everything and everybody back home. She had taken a gap year before moving on to college to get her shit together, to figure out what she wanted to study and not make a mistake. And yet, she still wasn't completely sure what she wanted to do.

The only thing she was completely sure of was that she needed to get the hell away from her home. Things had been complicated in the family since her last meltdown, which began with her ending her friends-with-benefits relationship with Charlie, drowning herself and her sorrows in alcohol, and climaxed in being threatened by her family to go to rehab for her behavior. She had not stopped drinking, had not gone to AA or rehab, and had stopped talking to her family for butting in her business.

And she was sick of it, sick of all of them.

She started to investigate what she wanted to study, something that she was good at, would benefit her financially, and would not make her miserable. Ella finally decided it would either have to be something in accounting, civil engineering, or lawyering. Once that was decided, she began to study universities that could cover all three careers, as she was not yet sure which one to take, also taking into account scholarships and job opportunities nearby.

That's when she found Gotham Uni.

It was a pretty prestigious school, given that it was the home city of one of the biggest companies in the world, Wayne Enterprises. All three careers could be studied there, and all three careers could get her a job in Wayne Enterprises, in Construction or as a fiduciary to the company or on the legal team of any branch. She had pretty big dreams in that department, but she knew she had to take small steps to get there.

Ella started looking into sponsor programs for GU, discovering that the actual Wayne Enterprises sponsored a scholarship program for people looking to work for the corporation. It was almost destiny.

So she applied, and was easily accepted with her impressive grades and bilingual abilities. She didn't even ask for anybody's help, except for one aunt who always wanted to see her better herself. Ella just announced she was leaving to Gotham one day during dinner.

She thought that with new goals set in mind and a new drive to complete them, that her life would just become better. She, for a moment thought that she would become a different person, and it would come naturally, easily, with her new life.

Boy, was she wrong.

"Are you with Brucie because of the money?" the Joker asked suddenly, the curiosity in his voice exaggerated. Daniela turned around to look at him and frowned.

"Does it look like I'm with him for the money?" she wondered, looking up at him from her position sitting down on the floor against one of the warehouse's walls. She was still wearing the dress from the previous night, though it was significantly dirtier and one of her Louboutin heels was lost. The Joker snorted.

"No. But it looks like he only keeps you around to pass the time… maybe because you're good eye-candy," he mused aloud. "Maybe 'cause he can do whatever he wants with you and you're okay with that. Maybe you're just a good fuck."

"What the hell?" Ella reproached. "What makes you think all that?"

The Joker cackled as he approached her, some of his minions walking around the vast warehouse around them, going about the business that he put them up to. Her legs were crossed at the ankles and her bare feet were dirty.

"Did I hit you where it hurts?" he asked, the same childlike concern from before in his voice. "I've barely seen you with him, and I already deduced that."

He stood in front of her now. She had removed her makeup previously—she was still very beautiful, although she looked much younger and tired—and her brows were furrowed defiantly. Then, she slowly lowered her gaze. With her head bowed, she sighed.

"I broke up with him last night," she confessed. That was certainly not something he expected. Although he didn't know why he impulsively took her the previous night, something in his gut told him she was important and he had been formulating a plan for her already.

"So it was for the money," the Joker taunted, chuckling. Ella's defeated expression morphed into a snarl as she glared at him.

"Fuck you!"

"Now, now, honey. Let's not make promises we can't keep," he sneered in response. Ella maintained her pissed off expression for a moment, before it turned into a smirk and she laughed.

She surprised the Joker.

"I don't make promises I can't keep," she murmured huskily, her dark eyes boring into his own. Her smirk was still in place.

The Joker squatted down beside her, studying her for a moment. She was a creature like no other, he knew it from the moment she tried to stop him from taking her friend. He hadn't paid any mind to her before because he never did anything on a whim. He knew exactly what and whom he was after, despite it looked like he was just always winging it.

Daniela's eyes followed his movements, his hands that were never still, and looked straight into his face. Her hair was a mess now and it was starting to look dirty. Maybe he would get her some water somehow so she could clean herself up. She clearly looked like she was used to being clean.

The door of the warehouse being opened caught her attention, and she looked to the other side, allowing him to spot the tattoo of a small cross on the back of her shoulder.

"Religious, are we?" he said, touching the tattoo. Daniela had to repress a shudder.

"No," she curtly answered. "I don't believe in religion. It's just society's way of keeping everyone in line."

The Joker paused, watching Ella turn back to look at him, a coldness in her eyes that hadn't been there before. And that's when he realized that Daniela truly wasn't very much afraid of him. Maybe he had let her get too comfortable.

"'But without faith, it is impossible to please him; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him*3,'" the Joker muttered, not looking at Daniela but at her tattoo instead, still tracing the simple cross.

Ella froze as she recognized the quote from Hebrews 11:6. He wouldn't meet her inquiring gaze but seemed transfixed by her tattoo, making her refrain from moving away from his touch.

"'Religion is not merely a tool to oppress the masses, it a self-perpetuating scam that leads the masses to oppress themselves*4,'" she retorted, watching his face carefully. There was nothing that gave him away, but his eyes slowly lifted to hers.

"'For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil*5,'" the clown murmured. She wasn't too sure where that one was from, but she still recognized it for what it was.

"'Prayer, in my opinion, is an act of doubt, not an act of faith. For if you truly trusted your God's plan, surely you wouldn't pray for anything*6,'" she replied, watching as the Joker removed his hand from her skin and took a seat beside her, with his legs splayed open. He sighed quietly.

"'Therefore, I tell you whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours*7.'"

Ella recognized the Mark 11:24 as she stared at him. It was then that the overwhelming feeling that this being beside her, this creature beside her, had once been a man who had been defeated and became something no one could conquer or forget.

"'But who prays for Satan?'" Daniela recited, making the Joker whip his head to look at her. She placed her hand beside his timidly, barely brushing pinkies on the ground. "'Who, in eighteen centuries, has had the common humanity to pray for the one sinner who needed it most?*8'"

The Joker continued to stare at her.

But who prays for Satan?

"The hunger of a lion is written on your face."

* Sleeping Beauty

*2 Marilyn Monroe

*3 Hebrews 11:6

*4 Michael Sherlock

*5 2 Corinthians 5:10

*6 Michael Sherlock

*7 Mark 11:24

*8 Mark Twain