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The Experiment

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Prologue

Yasopp stared at his father from his spot in front of the large mahogany desk. He lounged lazily in the seat, seeing no need to be uncomfortable, as he knew he would be there for a while. The light played with the golden highlights in his curly hair, his eyes, the colour of milk chocolate were teasing, but guarded. He had his hands in his lap, fiddling with his green slingshot, his fingers pulling at the band, unconsciously checking for hairline tears.

"Yasopp, get your feet off my desk, they're filthy."

"Aye, Sir," Yasopp mocked, removing his boots from the desk and crossing his legs. He looked down, his curls brushing his cheeks, a frown on his face when his fingers found a tear in the band of his slingshot. With a click of his tongue he undid the ties of the band and threw it onto the desk.

His father observed him while he did this, an almost identical frown on his own face as he watched Yasopp pull another band from his pocket and examine it under the bright light of the desk lamp. "What did you do this time, Yasopp?"

Yasopp looked up for a minute, the expression on his face saying he forgot where he had been, before he shrugged and looked back down at what he was doing, "for telling the truth, I suppose. I don't know Pop, you always taught me to tell the truth. I don't get why I would get in trouble for doing what I was told." He paused for a moment and gave his father a sheepish smile, "oh, and I shot a rock through the window while Commodore Garp was giving his speech to the first year high school students."

His father glared at him, thoroughly unamused with his son's behaviour. "Why you insist on acting like a complete idiot, I will never understand. You need to buckle down or you will never go anywhere in life. No one wants a fuck up and all you ever do now is fuck up. If you don't agree with the Marine methods, fine, but there are other students in this school who do, and as a student of this school, not to mention the son of the Headmaster, you are expected to hold yourself with a manner of decorum fitting such status. That means respecting those with ideas that differ from yours, even if you don't necessarily agree with them."

Yasopp merely stared at his father and blinked, "if you say so, Jasper."

"It is Father to you, or Sir," Jasper snapped. He clenched his fists and took several deep breaths, "listen. Do you think I agree with all of those pirate guest speakers we have around here? Of course not, but I respect them. They are major donators to the school, the same goes with the Marines. We can't have you attacking them, this school would be in ruins if we lost the Marine funding.

"Hell, the only reason your friend Dragon is even in this school is because Garp is a major donator, if it weren't for that he would have been kicked out years ago. All that non-sense he sprouts about a Revolution riles the student body up to the point where there are constant fights in the corridors in between periods. I don't want it on the grounds, but I deal with it because of his father."

Yasopp snorted, shaking his curls out of his eyes, "whatever." He had a small smile on his face as he fastened his new band to his slingshot, fingers deftly tying a secure knot in the string.

Jasper closed his eyes and breathed in through his nose, letting the breath out slowly through his mouth. "We'll discuss more of that later. Who have you been 'telling the truth' to this time?"

A scoff escaped Yasopp's mouth, "that new girl, Giordano." He sneered, the look on his face made it seem as if the mere name left a bad taste in his mouth.

"Banchina?" Yasopp rolled his eyes at the near adoring tone colouring his father's voice, "that girl is the best thing to happen to the science department since its inception! Not to mention she is exceptionally well-behaved, when she isn't confronting you at least. Now that is a girl with a bright future ahead of her, not only are the Marines vying for her, but I am to understand Gol D. Roger is considering recruiting her after graduation. Instead of insulting the girl, maybe take a few leaves from her book."

"Well, they are both out of luck," Yasopp chuckled. "Dragon was practically having a constant orgasm this entire week because she agreed to join him as a lead scientist if he gets the Revolution running." He paused for a moment, frowning slightly, "and I never said I insulted her. I merely told the truth, which was something you taught me to always do."

"Whether that is true or not, is neither here nor there," Jasper responded after a moment, head reeling from the new information. "It is obvious that to you, insulting and telling the truth have become mutually inclusive otherwise, my idiotic offspring, you would not be in here annoying me when I have other work I need to attend to."

"What, your massage?" Yasopp sneered, "terribly sorry to disturb such important work."

Jasper growled, "never mind the massage! You have great potential, but you insist on causing trouble for everyone here. I've had enough of it." He stood from his chair, his eyes straying to a portrait of himself, Yasopp's mother and four children, the youngest of which was swaddled in a blanket in Yasopp's arms.

"I can't punish you anymore, it does no good. You know breaking the window was wrong, you know whatever you said to Bachina was wrong. I know that keeping you out of classes only gives you an excuse to get into more trouble. As much as I hate to do this, especially to my own son, my hands are tied. This is your last warning."

"Until what?" Yasopp asked charily, sitting just a bit straight in his seat. His fingers stopped playing with the slingshot, allowing it to lay in his lap.

"Expulsion," Jasper answered coldly.

Yasopp chuckled and shook his head, pulling himself from his seat. "Sure, Pops. Great talk, I'll see you at dinner and we can discuss my impending expulsion further." He laughed more as he strolled out of the office, leaving his father to glare at his back.

"Fucking kid is going to send me to an early grave," Jasper muttered, opening the cabinet beside his desk and pulled out a bottle of scotch. He poured himself a generous glass and drank it in one go, wincing as the liquid burned his throat.

"He used to be such a good boy."

Jasper turned to see a woman in her late thirties standing before him. She was smiling widely at him, bouncing on the tips of her toes.

"What do you want, Marlena?" he asked the psychology professor, who was making herself at home in the seat Yasopp had vacated.

"In regards to Yasopp, I may have a solution to your problem. It is a bit unconventional," she warned, "but I think it'll prove helpful."

"I don't want the boy dead, Marlena."

Marlena scoffed and rolled her eyes, "please. Nothing so pedestrian. The Giordano girl, Banchina, she is the key."

"They hate each other."

"This is where it becomes a bit unconventional. See, my psychology class next week will be starting a 'practice marriage' of sorts. They will be forced to live with each other, and do things married couples do. Things like make a budget, cook dinner, grocery shop, pay bills

"I was going to allow the students to choose their partners, but I could instead, and place Banchina and Yasopp together. This could wind up benefitting everyone in the end. It could help her come out of her shell more, calm him down, and maybe even give us a break from their fighting."

Jasper stayed silent for a minute, pondering the idea before suddenly raising an eyebrow at her, "wait a minute, I never gave permission for such an experiment to be run. I doubt many of the parents would approve."

"An experiment that teaches their kids responsibility, thinking things through and the importance of safe sex? I don't see many parents being against that. It is not as if they are legally married, and it will all be done under the supervision of myself and the heads of house."

He gave her a cynical look, "are you certain this will work?"

Marlena gave him an almost pitying smile, "humans are peculiar beings. They take their cues from other humans, one should never underestimate their psychological connection. It is an important lesson, not only for Yasopp, but the other students as well."

Jasper sighed and leaned back in his leather chair, considering his option. He turned to stare out of the wall length mirror behind him, watching as Yasopp jumped down the last of the front steps and raced to meet his friends at the school entrance. He could not help but wince as his son was tackled to the ground, and was unable to help the small smile at hearing his son's laughter, rarity that is was nowadays. He moved his eyes to the Chemistry building, locking on the window where Banchina was lifting up her goggles to glare down at the gaggle of boys fooling around outside.

He nodded to himself, "very well." His voice sounded slightly defeated as he turned back towards her. "You have my permission to go ahead with the project- I'll have my secretary write up the permission forms and send them out to the parents. I am not expecting much, mind you, except maybe him shooting a rock or two through your classroom window. If he acts up during the project, I will be forced to expel him."

"You can't do that!" Marlena said, worry lacing her tone. "If you were to expel him during the project I will have to fail Banchina. She is here on scholarship, failure in a class is not an option for her!"

Jasper scowled, now seeing what her true plan was. "Then I suggest you keep him in check."

"He's your son, why don't you keep the kid in check." Marlena muttered to herself as she stood, smoothing down her skirt.

"What was that?" Jasper asked pleasantly, his eyes flashing dangerously warning her that she was on thin ice.

"Nothing, Sir," she responded sweetly.

"You have a month, if he hasn't changed by then, my son or not, he is out of here. Now, you get out. I've things I must attend to." Jasper waved blindly towards the door, already having turned back towards the window.

"Aye, aye, Captain," Marlena mocked saluted. As she stepped out of his office, she could not keep herself from rolling her eyes at the ceiling. Yasopp was by no means a bad child, he just needed to be pushed back in the right direction. She chuckled to herself, Jasper may not believe her plan would work, but he will soon learn that nobody should underestimate the effectiveness of outside influence, or the psychology behind it.

To Be Continued

Chapter Text

The Experiment

Chapter One

Banchina Giordano raced about her room, hopping frantically on one foot as she fought to put on her shoe and brush her hair at the same time. It was Monday morning, and she was running late. It would not due to ruin her perfect attendance record. Especially when she only slept two floors above the classroom she needed to be in- that would be embarrassing. It was times like this that she wished for a roommate, just one to fall back on for when she woke up late. Unfortunately, she was not the most popular girl in school and thus, had an extremely difficult time finding one. That, paired with her coming to the school half way through the last term, meant that she eventually gave up the search all together.

She pulled on her school blazer and grabbed her books before racing out of her room, barely stopping to make sure the door closed firmly behind her. Truth be told, it was not the complete lack of popularity that bothered Banchina, it was not even the nasty things said behind her back, it wasn’t even that the one friendship she did have, with one Monkey D. Dragon, had fallen into just friendly nods in the corridor in passing. It was, well, a boy.

She jumped down the first flight of stairs before running down the second one, hair flipping over her shoulder as she threw open the door leading to the fourth floor. She sighed, skidding to a stop in front of her classroom door, her breaths coming out in short pants as she opened the door and walked to her seat in front of the professor's desk. The late bell rang just as her bag hit the desk, and she mentally gave a cheer, her record was safe for today.

Not even bothering to greet the girl beside her, Banchina pulled out her sketchbook and continued to work on the project that she had spent half the night working on. It took a few more minutes before Professor Nelson walked through the door, soaked to the bone. Unlike the students, teachers did not sleep in the same building that classes were held, but the smaller building which was a good five minutes down the road. "Morning class, settle down now." There was no change in the noise level, the students not even noticing that the woman had entered the room. "I said quiet down, you brats!"

The room fell silent, but it was not because of anything the professor had said.

The shadow at the door is what had caught every one's attention. It was standing there almost as if the owner were hesitating on entering. It was then that Banchina remembered that they were supposed to be getting a new student in their homeroom. Not that she had high hopes for that friendship. If anyone were to get near her it was guaranteed to be social suicide, Yasopp would see to it.

You see, Yasopp Curran was the school's resident troublemaker, and the headmaster's eldest son. This of course meant that he was gorgeous as hell, because was that not how things always worked? He had eyes the color of melted milk chocolate, thick curly black hair that surrounded his handsome face when he didn't have it pulled back, and muscles that even Banchina had to (begrudgingly) admit she fantasized about on more than one occasion.

Yes, he was gorgeous, but that was really all he was, something to look at. Yasopp was a player at heart and was always seen going on a date with some poor girl. Banchina could only shake her head when girls threw themselves at Yasopp, feeling that she was the only one on campus with enough intelligence to see through his act. Or rather, the only one who cared to. All things considered, it was probably a good thing that she couldn't stand him, because Yasopp despised her. In truth, he was the one thing that bothered her to the point of violence.

After what seemed like a millennium, the classroom door finally opened. "Um... pardon my lateness, Miss. I got lost, this building is very confusing." said a deep voice. Banchina blinked, watching the boy who had stopped in front of the professor's desk, hands clasped tightly behind his back. His long black hair was tied back into a ponytail, his bangs brushing the tips of his eyelashes which surrounded black eyes that seemed to shine like a million stars in the dim light of the classroom. He also had a wooden sword that was fastened on his back underneath his bag, most likely to keep him from losing it.

He was very tall, so tall in fact that he had to bend so not to hit his head on the top of the door and had very muscular arms. The tank top he wore bore a white collar and the tight black pants made his ass look amazing and legs seem as if they ran for miles. Banchina had to suppress the urge to roll her eyes, the girls, and admittedly some of the guys, were panting at him like starving dogs.

"Vista, it's good to see you again." Mrs. Nelson said her tone clipped. If there was one thing she hated, it was lateness. Even though, often it was she who was late.

"I apologize for the lateness," Vista said sheepishly. "Yasopp gave me a map of the school, but I must have read it wrong."

"That must have been it," she said lightly, perhaps so used to Yasopp's antics that nothing shocked her. She waved at the class, "go have a seat. We were about to begin roll call."

Vista's eyes swept over the classroom, a bemused expression on his face as he watched his new peers sit straighter in their seats as he passed over him. Banchina had to hold in a scoff, she could practically hear their thoughts, and most of them were not suitable for teens. She looked back down at her sketchbook, frowning at the stray mark she accidently made on the page.

The emerald haired girl huffed in annoyance as she dropped the pencil she was holding onto her desk and reached below her chair to her bag for her eraser in the front pocket. She froze when Vista threw her a crooked grin, raising an eyebrow as he casually made his way over and sat in the chair beside her, dropping his bag onto the desk.

She fished her eraser from her bag and straightened, determined not to look him in the eye as she did so. It had worked too, and Banchina had just picked up her pencil when he grinned at her again, "hello." He had said pleasantly.

"Hi," Banchina muttered, her eyes not leaving her sketchbook as so to not make eye contact with him.

"How has this year been treating you?"

Banchina blinked, still looking down at her paper. "...fine, I suppose. It has been a bit of a quiet year." she replied blandly, “What about yours?"

"I went to a boarding school in the New World, hated it. My parents allowed me to transfer here since it has a pretty decent sword training program." To her credit, she succeeded in not throwing him a look of disdain; another meat headed swordsman was just what the school needed. Granted, it was better than another meat headed sniper, but just barely.

"Well, I've a bit of advice for you. Stay away from the sniperial squad. Their leader is a real douche." Banchina said lightly, causing him to chuckle.

"Ah, Yasopp you mean?" He had an expression that Banchina could not quite decipher, almost as if he was in on some big secret she was not privy to.

"You know him well?" She asked dryly closing her sketchbook and placing her pencil and eraser on top of it. The conversation between her and Vista was enough to pull her away from her drawing.

Vista scoffed and shook his head, "I wouldn't go that far, but I do tend to steer clear of him when an occasion arises." He threw her a wry smile, sighing as he released his hair from its confines, so he could run his fingers through it. "You could say that our parents are good... friends."

Banchina coughed to hide her laughter, "they're friends you say?"

Vista groaned, his fingers deftly retying his hair, a tormented sigh left his lips as he leaned his chin on his fist, "let's not get into it. Makes me sick just thinking about it."

"What do you want to talk about then?"

"Let's talk about you."

Banchina's eyes widened, her mouth dropping open before she had the presence of mind to click it shut. Someone being interested in her was new. Perhaps, just perhaps, there was a friend in Vista.

o0o

Vista scrunched up his nose, "what is he doing?" he asked, his tone barely disguising his disgust.

Banchina took a sip of her milkshake, regarding the lumpy mess in her cup before shrugging her shoulders. She spared a glance across the field towards Yasopp, who was with Dragon and about half a dozen of the school's cheerleaders. The brunette, Bonny, Bobbi, Billi, Brandi?, that was currently hanging off his arm looked about ready to faint. "Likely getting ready to make an ass of himself."

He chuckled at that as he shook his hair from his eyes. Once class was over he had pulled his hair out of its ponytail, which allowed it to flow like a river down his broad shoulders. "Who are the other people around him who look about ready to piss themselves?"

"Oh, haven't you heard about his cult?" She responded sardonically, smirking at the perplexed expression that crossed his face. "The caramel-skinned boy with the short black hair is Monkey D. Dragon; his father is one of the higher up Marines. He's best friends with Yasopp, but we get on pretty well too, when we get the chance to talk." Banchina said matter-of-factly, "the girls are part of his fan club."

"I'm sorry, he... he has a fan club?"

Banchina nodded, "a legit one. If you check the bulletins with the lists of extracurricular activities, you will see them on it."

"You can't be serious," Vista was staring at the group as if they were aliens, which as far as she was concerned, they were.

Shaking her head, she pulled out the extracurricular sheet that she had kept from the beginning of the year in her folder. "Nope, see?" She pointed to where The Yasopp Fan Club was listed. "Right there between gardening and kendo."

She shoved the paper back in her bag and reached for her milkshake that she had placed on the floor. "They even have matching bags and t-shirts with his face on them." Taking a sip, she put it between her knees so that she could get her sketchbook and pencil out of her bag. She clicked her tongue and peered into the bag, "shoot. I must've left my pencil in art." Banchina pouted before looking over at Vista, smiling sheepishly, "you wouldn't happen to have one I could borrow, would you? I have this project to finish before my second period of art after lunch."

"Sure," he reached into his pocket and handed her a mechanical pencil. She smiled at him gratefully and flipped open her book to the almost finished sketch. He watched her as she moved her hand confidently across the paper. "Besides art, what classes do you have after lunch?"

Banchina bit the end of the pencil and frowned, "organic chemistry and -ugh-, general psychology."

Vista cocked his head to the side, "it seems like general psychology would be something right up your ally."

Banchina scoffed, "it's not the class." She paused for a moment, "okay, some of it is the class but mostly it's the fact that Yasopp has it with me. He sits right next to me and uses it as any excuse to start a fight. Fling my books off the desk, trips me, insults me, you name it and he's done it."

"That is no way to treat a girl," Vista said, disgust clear in his voice, glaring at Yasopp who was shooting at something in one of the trees.

"Yeah, well, that's Yasopp for you." Banchina said rather dismissively.

"You said that some of your disdain was because of the class itself?" Vista inquired. Banchina looked up at him, her eyes narrowing slightly at his rigid posture and clenched fists. At this point he was still glaring at Yasopp, the look in his eyes dangerous.

Banchina sighed, leaning back against the tree behind her. "Well the professor, Marlena, she is pretty cool. She graduated from here about thirteen years ago and has been teaching ever since, but she has this penchant for making the class do these very odd month long social experiments. Last year she got most of the senior year addicted to porn."

This garnered Vista's full attention, he too finally relaxing back against the tree as he turned his gaze onto her, "porn?"

Banchina raised an eyebrow, "yeah. You know, the stuff where people get paid to have sex with each other or pose in sexual positions?"

Vista blushed and looked away from her, "I know what porn is!" He yelled, a bit too loudly in her opinion, as it gathered the attention of those within the immediate area. "I was just wondering how that could happen."

Banchina hid her face in her knees to stifle her giggles, her shoulders jumping with the effort to keep them subdued. "Marlena gets away with almost everything by claiming it to be a social experi- oh, crap, what the hell do you want?" She sneered, staring up at Yasopp who was glaring down at Vista and herself.

"Vista, what the hell are you doing with the likes of her?" He looked to the left and right before lowering his voice, "And yelling about porn in the courtyard like that! I have a reputation to uphold here."

Vista smiled as he stood up, wiping dirt off the back of his pants. "Banchina is a friend of mine." He now had his wooden sword in hand, twirling it expertly. "Besides, from what I've heard of your reputation, it isn't one you should be proud of."

The shorter boy glowered at Vista, his hand reaching into his back pocket for his slingshot. He clicked his tongue, looking around them to see that they had gathered a bit of an audience. Sighing, Yasopp eased back onto his heels, "we'll talk about this when you get home." Turning on his heel, Yasopp stalked back towards his friends.

"Looking forward to it!" Vista called, plopping back down onto the grass beside Banchina and laying his sword back against the tree. "Moron," he muttered under his breath. He sighed and smiled at Banchina, "sorry about that."

"At home? You guys live together?" Banchina asked, disbelief painting her voice. "What happened to barely knowing each other?"

Vista shook his head, "in my defense, I claimed to not know him well. Not to not knowing him."

Banchina narrowed her eyes, "there is a difference in that how?"

"Simple. One could live in a household and never get to really know a person, but they would know more than a normal acquaintance. Take this for example; a normal acquaintance would not know that the idiot leaves wet towels on the floor because he thinks they dry quicker than on the heated rack next to the shower."

"Touché," Banchina accepted, but frowned after a moment's thought. "You two aren't brothers, and you aren't cousins because you would have been here since birth like the others. Why would you be living in the same house?"

Vista scowled, "I've already told you. Our parents are friends."

Banchina's eyebrows rose until they were hidden beneath her bangs, "oh, I thought you meant just fuck buddies. You mean they are married?"

He grimaced, "I really don't want to talk about it."

"I'm so sorry," Banchina rubbed his arm. "I won't bring it up again. I can't imagine what it is like living with him."

"And it would still be too soon." The bell rang signaling the end of lunch hour, "Walk me to class? I wasn't kidding when I said this place was like a maze." Vista stood and grabbed her hand to pull her up. He reached down to grab his sword and bag, throwing the latter over his shoulder.

"Sure," Banchina said, bobbing her head as she bent down to shove her sketchbook back in her bag. Shouldering the bag, she handed him back his pencil with a smile. "Thanks for the pencil."

He waved her off, "keep it. You need it for art, don't you? I'll just collect it from you tomorrow."

She beamed and put the pencil in her bag. He said tomorrow, meaning he planned on meeting up with her again. "Thanks!" She began to follow him towards the main building, accepting his time table from him so she could help him find his class.

"What're friends for? You help me find my class, I give you a pencil."

Banchina laughed, friend. She really did like the sound of that word coming from his mouth.

o0o

An audible sigh left Banchina's mouth as she sank into her desk chair, her left hand running through her hair to look for Vista's pencil. She pulled it from a particularly vicious tangle and huffed. With a tug her sketchbook was pulled from her bag and she opened to a new page, her project from this morning finished and handed in. General psychology would not begin for another five minutes which meant that she would have some time to sketch out her latest idea. "Are you freaking kidding me!?" She snapped, glaring at Yasopp before bending over to pick up her sketchbook from the floor. She clicked her tongue, ready to make another comment, but held her tongue and positioned her body so that it faced away from him as the Professor flew into the room, looking far too happy for a Monday.

Dragon passed by her, and she threw him a smile, barely able to contain her snort at the slap that he gave to the back of Yasopp's head as he had walked behind him to the desk on Yasopp's other side. "Good to see that you could bother to join us, Mr. Monkey." Marlena said dryly, moving to the door and slamming it shut. "Perhaps set an alarm when you are with your girlfriend and you will get here on time next class."

Dragon scowled at her, elbowing Yasopp in his ribs at the obnoxious chuckle that left his lips. "Yes, Professor."

Marlena hummed in response as she placed the stack of papers in her arms on the desk and waved her hand towards them. "These are the instructions for your next proje- oh, knock that off!" She scolded, folding her arms in front of her chest.

Banchina had to bite her lip and stare at the ceiling to keep herself from joining the class's collective groan. She scowled at Yasopp whose hand had hit the side of her hand when he raised it, "what horror are you going to put us through this month?"

Marlena grinned, her arms falling to her sides, "I am so glad you asked, Mr. Curran."

The smirk he was sporting fell from his face, her grinning was never a good sign for them. Her pouting usually meant it was safe, her grinning meant it was going to be something unpleasant.

Marlena seemed to take great joy in his discomfort as she trailed around the desk to the Visual Den Den Mushi that lay on the other side. The words 'Marriage' appeared on the screen before them, causing murmurs through the room.

"For this month's project you will each be marrying one of your peers." Marlena said, barely able to keep the girlish squeal from coloring her voice.

Banchina slid down in her seat, barely missing Yasopp's arm when he swiveled around in his chair to get a good look at their classmates. Most of the girls and some of the boys were giving him a longing look. "Gay marriage is allowed, yeah? Can I marry Dragon?"

Marlena laughed, "yes, there are a few of those, but I've already paired you guys up and you did not get Mr. Monkey, I'm afraid."

Yasopp scowled and leaned back in his seat, his arms crossed tightly in front of his chest. Banchina was impressed, that was the second time in a day that someone was able to get him to shut up. That must have been some sort of record.

"Is that all of the questions?" No one said a word, most of the students still staring at Yasopp and not listening to a work being said. "This project will begin tomorrow right after class. If you have a class after this one, for tomorrow only, you will be excused. Take the time off to move your things from your dormitories into the small apartments that you will be sharing with your partner."

"We can't even stay in the dormitories!?" Yasopp exclaimed, "Are you fucking serious?"

"You don't even live in the dormitories, what are you complaining about?" Dragon hissed at him, "Look at it as an opportunity to get away from your family for a while."

Marlena glowered, her eyes flashing. "Mr. Curran, shut up. The point of this project is to show you guys what being in a real marriage is like; it is supposed to teach you a host of things. Responsibility, how to work out issues, co-operation, planning- be grateful that this project is only for a month. When you are in a real marriage, you are in it forever. This will hopefully have you think twice before you jump into one in the future.

"Now, you will be living in the apartments that have been set up for you in the Northern tower."

"Professor, if I may. That place is condemned. There is a poltergeist living there and he is murderous. The last time one of the students went in there on a dare, they lost an eye." Dragon cast a weary look at the tower through the window at his side. Even from his vantage point, and average eyesight, he could see the poltergeist in the uppermost window. He shivered and quickly looked away.

"You are the bravest guy I know, and you are afraid of a freaking ghost?" Yasopp chuckled, hiding his face in his arms to stifle them.

"Poltergeist! Murderous ghost that can touch physical things, how can you think that is not creepy?" Dragon defended, continuing to sneak weary peeks at the tower.

"Mr. Monkey, Charlie was the one to offer us the tower." Dragon's gaze snapped up to his professor, his eyes roving over her face as if she had suddenly grown three heads, which has happened before, believe it or not.

"Oh, yeah, let us go willingly into the tower with a murderous ghost, that is going to end up well for us." He snapped his head back towards the window and gulped, his eyes widening when he saw Charlie sharpening what looked like a machete.

Marlena snapped her fingers, "if you truly have an issue with the tower we can discuss it with the class after I explain the details of the project." Dragon sighed in relief and leaned back in his chair, subtly angling his body away from the window so that his eyes would not wander back to the tower.

Marlena sighed, "As I was saying, you will be living with your partner in the apartments, doing the stuff married people do. This means you will be creating a budget, paying rent, going grocery shopping. Be grateful that we are giving you the money and not making you work for it." Marlena glared at Yasopp, who was once again raising his hand. "No, the money is not real. You will not be able to use it outside the premises of the school, Mr. Curran." Banchina smirked when she heard the 'not like you need it anyway, you brat.' that Marlena had muttered under her breath.

"Are we including sex in this?" Dragon inquired, eyebrow raised. "I don't believe my girlfriend would approve of that."

"As if that ever stopped you," Marlena said dryly.

"Is that a yes, or…?"

"I am not telling you to go have sex with your partner; I would get arrested for telling you that. If you guys want to have sex, that is not my concern. But use protection because I am not losing my job over baby drama." Marlena rubbed her forehead and was beginning to regret creating the experiment, almost.

"Now, you will need to spend as much time as possible with each other. You will be given a journal to write about what you have experienced through the day and how you feel about the marriage thus far." The class groaned again, "it is not mandatory to fill the journal, but the twenty-page paper you will be writing at the end of the project is. I suggest you do use the journal because it will make writing the paper a cake walk."

"Twenty pages!?" Yasopp complained, "Do you think we have no other classes, or activities? The sniperial tournament is coming up in a couple of weeks! I don't have the time to write twenty pages on my feelings."

"Fear not, Mr. Curran. You will have plenty of time to practice the week you have off from your partner. Marlena sat on her desk and folded her legs under her, "I believe that the end of that week is the start of the tournament which means you'll be plenty prepared."

"Riddle me this then, how do you expect me to write, what I assume is 5 pages, on the mere freedom I feel?"

"Don't worry, Curran. I'm sure your partner will be writing a hundred pages on their relief of being away from you." Banchina shrugged her shoulders, "maybe you can just pay them to write it for you. Everyone knows that you haven't written an assignment yourself since the eighth year." She hid her face behind her hair, the blush rising on her cheeks when Dragon fell from his seat, his laughter uncontrollable.

"Now that that is settled," Marlena took a drink from her water bottle. "If you are all ready, I will tell you who your partner is. Please stand and go to the back, you will be sitting with your partner for the duration of this project.

She waited until everyone gathered their books and walked to the back of the classroom. Leaning back on her hands, she looked at the class. "Bartholomew Kuma and Jessica Matthews." Kuma shrugged, never one for many words and waited for Jessica to sit before sitting himself. "Antonio and Avalo Pizarro, Gatherine and Marshall, D. Teach, Alvida and Dracule Mihawk."

There was absolutely no order in which Marlena was saying the names, they truly were random. Unless you counted pairing those with a last name, and those without one together for most of the groups as a pattern of sorts. She felt a strong sense of foreboding, but she pushed it aside. If she was not stuck with Yasopp, she could handle it.

"Monkey D. Dragon and Lucy Dinkler." Dragon and Banchina grimaced. Lucy and Dragon had had a terrible fallout after a pregnancy scare the semester prior. It seemed almost cruel for Marlena to put them together. Banchina was sad that Dragon had not wound up her partner, but grateful that she would not be put in a similar situation. She would probably have accepted a failing grade right on the spot if that would occur. The only thing worse would be-

"Banchina Giordano and Yasopp Curran."

That.

"Are you out of your fucking mind!?"

"Professor, you can't be serious!"

The class had fallen silent. The crickets across the campus could be heard, Banchina swore it. The remaining students shifted as far away from their two peers and the professor as possible, blood was surely about to be spilled.

A smile appeared on Marlena's face, a dangerous one that warned Yasopp and Banchina to be very careful with their words. "If you two have an issue, it can wait until after class. Kindly take your seat and stop wasting our time."

Banchina cursed under her breath, closing her eyes tightly and willing herself not to beat Yasopp to a pulp when he roughly pushed past her to sit down in the seat she was about to take. Frustrated, Banchina allowed her bag to hit him on the back of his head as she passed to the seat beside him. "Idiot." She hissed, throwing her bag on the desk and folding her arms in front of her chest. "This is freaking insane, she can't be serious about this."

"Fucking bitch is going to pay for this," Yasopp muttered to himself. He had pulled out his slingshot and was running his fingers over the band, his teeth biting into his bottom hard enough to cause bleeding.

"Curran, shut the hell up." Banchina snapped, "This situation is bad enough without your stupid comments."

Yasopp sneered, "as soon as this class is over I'm demanding a switch in partners."

"Looks like we agree on something for once," Banchina hissed.

"Thank god, 'cause I refuse to pretend to be married to someone as sickly and pathetic as you. I'd rather get shot in a duel and die than spend the next month living in that damned tower with you. And if you even think of stopping me, I hate to disappoint you but, I have failed classes for much less."

"No need to reassure me. I already know how much of a Neanderthal you are."

Yasopp placed his sling shot on the desk and turned to glare at Banchina, "what the hell is that supposed to mean?"

Banchina rolled her eyes, "nothing it means nothing, Curran. As in what your head holds." Yasopp kicked his foot against the desk, causing it to shake. "How mature of you." she hissed, before putting her head on her arms and closing her eyes.

Yasopp saw that there was not going to be anymore to that conversation, and so moved his attention back to his slingshot. Marlena had since finished reading off the last ten names and had begun explaining the specifics of the project to the class. Neither Banchina nor Yasopp heard what she was saying; too busy alternating between glaring and ignoring each other.

Finally, after what seemed like a century, the bell signaling the end of the period rang shrilly through the room. Banchina jumped, her bag sliding off her desk and landing with a loud thud on the floor. She groaned, picking up her bag from the floor and slinging it over her shoulder. Folding her arms over her chest, she waited behind her desk until her classmates filed out of the room. Yasopp was already at the desk arguing with Marlena when Banchina finally made her way over.

"Just let me work with anyone besides her, Van Auger even." Yasopp was saying, an aggravated almost desperate look on his face.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Curran, but the pairings are final." Was Marlena's response. She was turning off the Visual Den Den Mushi, her back towards him so that he would not see her gleeful expression.

Banchina stepped up to the desk deciding she would give it a try. "Professor, please. My illness, I can't be stressed all of the time; he could potentially put me in the hospital."

"I've already talked to the nurse, Miss. Giordano and she told me that pairing you two up should not cause you any damage."

"Isn't the point of marriage to be with someone you love, or at least tolerate?" Banchina said, trying a different approach.

"The point of marriage is also to work out differences, which you two have plenty of." Marlena corrected, now sitting down on the desk chair and putting away the extra papers that lined her desk.

"Come on..." Yasopp said, pausing when Marlena put her hand up.

"I really think this project could benefit the both of you. If I didn't think you could do this, I would never have paired you together."

"How could being with her possibly benefit me?"

"How could being with him possibly benefit me?"

Marlena clapped, "see! You two already think alike!" At the annoyed looks on their faces, she sighed, "Give it a week. If you still can't stand each other, I might be willing to consider some sort of compromise."

"Like a change in partners?" Yasopp offered hopefully.

"No." She said firmly, "Now go on to your next class. Make the most of the next twenty-four hours you have alone." Marlena said, shooing them from the room.

Dragon leaned up against the wall beside the class room, looking up when the two stalked from the room. "That bad?" He guessed, raising an eyebrow at their glares.

"We have to work out our differences, and it'll benefit us." Yasopp quoted, his voice pitched higher for emphasis. "Utter garbage." He sullenly stood in front of his friend, a pout forming on his lips. "I'd even trade it for your situation with Lucy."

Dragon looked across the hall to where Banchina was opening her locker, "and what is your take on this, Giordano?" he asked lightly, ignoring his friend in favor for the more rational of the two.

"Is Curran joining your army?" She asked lightly, not turning to face him. She pulled out her books from her back and shoved them in her locker with more force than necessary. Her bag fell uselessly to her feet, but she ignored it.

"Maybe as a sniper, why?" Dragon asked, ignoring his friend's continued pouting.

"Oh, that's too bad." Banchina shook her hair from her eyes and bent down to pick up her bag, shoving it onto the empty hook on the left side.

"You aren't going to back out of being lead scientist on his account, are you?" Dragon said, hesitance in his voice. Everyone knew that he had been campaigning for her acceptance into what would eventually become a Revolutionary Army lead by him since she began school there. "We will definitely need someone with your brains forerunning the operation on the scientific side."

"Oh, I'll be there. It's him I am thinking will be in a grave. He'd be pretty useless to you two meters under." Banchina said lightly. "As for the project, I'm thinking an F for this quarter. Might give my Mother a heart attack, but anything is better than this." She grabbed her homework notebook and slammed her locker shut, waving as she turned to walk to the dormitories, her classes finished for the day, "evening."

"Banchina, wait up!" She paused and turned, a small smile lighting her face as Vista ran up to her. She bit back a laugh when he brushed past Yasopp and Dragon, shoving the former into the wall as he passed.

"Vista, hey!"

He stopped a couple of feet away from her and frowned, "what's wrong?" He said eventually, regarding her posture and facial expression.

"Take a wild guess what this month's psychology project is about." Banchina said airily. She turned so that she was not looking directly at Yasopp and Dragon, who were still standing in front of the classroom.

"I don't know, taking care of a baby seaking?" Vista transferred his sword to his right shoulder, rotating his left and wincing at the movement.

Banchina huffed, "I wish. At least they're pretty cute when they're young."

"Ouch- is it really that horrible?" Vista asked quickly, trying to cover up the pain he felt. The practice in the dojo had him worse for wear. He loved it, but it left him with pain he had not felt since he began sword training.

"It's horrible times infinity," Banchina complained, "I have to-"

"Better leave Yasopp's wife alone, Vista, you know how possessive he gets over his things," Dragon teased, him and Yasopp making their way to the dormitory as well. He winced then, having been pushed into the nearby lockers, "dick." he added, glaring at Yasopp.

Yasopp turned on his heel and stormed towards the opposite stairwell, his face set in anger, hands clenching his slingshot. Marlena was probably not going to have windows when he was done with his tantrum.

"When was the big wedding?" Vista asked lightly, ignoring Yasopp, far too used to his tantrums.

"Ugh!" Banchina crossed her arms over her chest, "it's a pretend marriage, but we need to be with each other pretty much constantly for the next month. Out of all the people in the class, I had to be put with that slime ball."

"Don't worry about it, Sis." Vista said teasingly, putting an arm over her shoulder. "I'll protect you from the big mean idiot."

"Vista, this isn't funny!" Banchina whined, about a step away from stomping her foot like a toddler.

"Hey, it's only a month. Our parent's will be together for the rest of their lives. He is my brother until one of us dies."

"Yeah, but he doesn't despise you like he does me. You guys probably live on opposite ends of the mansion and never see each other." Banchina sighed, "I have to sleep in the same bed as him."

"He doesn't hate you! And we share a room; the mansion is more for storage than anything. We only use the first two floors. I think ghosts live on the top floor." Vista frowned, trying to remember the details of the mansion he lived in. "Why don't you come over tomorrow and you can see for yourself-"

"Absolutely not." Banchina and Vista turned to see Yasopp standing a few feet away, pouting like a petulant child. "Vista, Dad and your mother are waiting for us. We have a meeting with the Mayor tonight."

Vista clicked his tongue, ignoring Yasopp in favor of finishing his conversation. "When does the project start?"

"We move into the Northern tower tomorrow afternoon."

"With Charlie!?" Vista asked, "That's so cool! That's what we can do tomorrow. We can move your stuff in and go meet Charlie! I always wanted to."

Banchina nodded, "okay. Maybe he'll kill me, and I'll get off Scott free."

"That's not funny, Banchina!" Dragon cried from behind the door of his locker.

"Here's hoping!" Yasopp said nastily, "Vista, let's go! Dragon, I'll see you tonight for the party."

"Yeah, whatever." Dragon sighed, pulling out his coat from his locker and slamming the door shut. "I'll be at my girlfriends’ until dinner. I'll call you when I'm free."

"I'll see you tomorrow. Try not to worry about it. This project might wind up being good for you." Vista said, waving at Banchina and nodded at Dragon before turning and following Yasopp.

In the distance, she could hear the two boys arguing, about what, she couldn't be certain. "I'll catch you later, Dragon."

"Night, Banchina."

Banchina shook her head and began to walk back to her dormitory. If the project was going to start tomorrow she needed to get all the alone time that she could before all hell broke loose. And it would, because it always did.