Disclaimer: CBS, Barbara Hall, you know the drill.
Notes: It's that time of the year again --- exams. This is a procrastination fic, prompted by the words "hives" and "Sims 2." For Shadow, with extra Benadryl.


Grace took that test when she was younger, the allergy test where they pricked her skin with a needle over and over to figure out what kinds of things she was allergic too. She held her breath when they did the test for chocolate --- she could live without a dog or a cat, but she couldn't live without chocolate. As it turned out, the doctor determined that chocolate was fine, but she was allergic to dust, pollen, and six hundred different types of grass and weeds, which meant whenever April showers brought May flowers, life was going to be hell for her.

Grace doesn't recall the doctor saying anything about being allergic to sex --- can you actually be allergic to sex? She mulls that one over, and then decides that maybe she isn't allergic to sex, she's allergic to Joan Girardi's obsessive belief of the fact that her brother and Grace are having sex, which is definitely not happening. Yet.

That's the most plausible explanation for the sudden outbreak of hives on the back of her neck and arms. Unless she's starting to have an allergic reaction to all formaldehyde she's inhaled in the biology closet in the last year.

Joan's Project of the Week is teaching sex ed to a bunch of first graders, for whatever reason Grace can't begin to imagine. Somehow that has managed to turn into some sort of bizarre Girardi Inquisition into Grace and Luke's sex life, and when Joan starts nattering about how it's important for kids to learn at an early age that it's necessary to be safe when they have sex, Grace narrows her eyes and asks, "Girardi, ever ask yourself why six-year-olds would be having sex in the first place?"

"Ew! Grace!" Joan gives her an indignant look. "I mean it's important for them to learn that it's important for them to have safe sex later on. Like, ten years down the road. You know. When they are . . . sixteen." The look she gives Grace is so transparent that she might as well have asked out loud whether Luke and Grace were engaging in something more vigorous than tonsil hockey.

"Get your mind out of the gutter, Girardi. Do not go there."

"Do you think I actually want to go there? This is already making me uncomfortable on so many levels."

"Then let's drop it and try self-inflicted amnesia instead."

They go back to brainstorming essay topics for their English papers and Grace is granted peace of mind for about fifteen minutes before Joan blurts out, "So, have you guys? Wait, don't tell me. No, really, don't tell me. I don't want to know! Oh, whatever, just tell me, have you considered it?"

Sometimes Joan really is a one-woman Greek play.

"Tell me, Girardi, are you always this preoccupied with your brother's sex life?"

That shut her up. "Okay, fine. Forget I asked. Just, focus on the poem. Samuel Coleridge. He was a romantic poet? What's so romantic about a bunch of sailors and a dead bird?"

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What it comes down to is that Grace does think about it. She's a teenager after all, and teenagers spend at least a fraction of their time thinking about it. She thinks about other things too, like just how the hell tossing a medicine ball back and forth in P.E. class is going to help her in life, or how many bottles of wine it will take until her mother starts drunk-dialing their relatives, and Grace would need to unplug the phone. But beneath all of that, it's there. The wondering whether or not she wants to have sex with Luke Girardi, and the answer that yes, most probably she does.

But not right now, because she has a rash. Her hives are spreading onto her back. They itch and are impossible to scratch and it makes her wonder whether she can't have sex with Luke right now because she has a rash, or she can't have sex with him because thinking about it has given her a rash. It's pretty much a moot point though, because after what happened with Adam, Luke is so ashamed on behalf of the male species that he'd never ask for sex, ever, which means when push comes to shove, Grace would have to be the one to do something about it.

Maybe she's thinking about it too much. But how can a person not think about all this?

Grace has a brief moment of admiration for those wanton girls who hump their boyfriends in the hallway between classes. It must be so easy to cruise in life with only two operating brain cells.

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"I have this weird rash," Grace explains when Luke eyes her scratching the skin off her wrist until it bleeds. "Allergies. Or maybe stress. Hopefully not whatever made your sister crazy."

"Not funny!" Joan calls from her room.

They are in Luke's bedroom, where Luke is installing the university expansion pack for Sims 2. It's taking forever, and he is convinced that one of the files is corrupt. Grace thinks his computer is just being stupid, but she knows better by now than to actually tell him that. Boy Wonder is irritatingly defensive about his high-tech toys.

"Did you get a doctor to look at it?" he asks. "It looks awful."

"Thank you. I needed that."

"If you break the skin, it might get infected."

"It won't stop itching unless I break the skin."

"Hang on." Luke tears himself away from his computer and heads downstairs. Grace fidgets with the keyboard and manages to get the installation to run smoothly before he returns, carrying a glass of water and a box of pink pills.

"Benadryl," Grace deadpans. "The solution to life's problems. It doesn't actually work for me anymore, I think I'm immune or something. Puts me to sleep though."

"You look like you can use some sleep." He's joking a little, but mostly concerned. Grace didn't know it has become so obvious that she spent all last night waiting for her mother to exhaust herself so that Grace could tuck her in bed and then mop the vomit off the kitchen floor.

She doesn't want to talk about it, so she takes the water from him and downs the pills with a gulp. Luke sets the empty glass on his desk and turns back to the computer screen. "Hey, it worked!" he exclaims, and Grace tries hard not to smile.

They get the game started, but nothing much happens. Luke debates whether his sims should move into their own apartment or live in dorms, and Grace tells him that they are lucky to live anywhere without prying siblings and well-meaning but nosy parentals. The Benadryl kicks in eventually, and she stops scratching in order to focus on staying awake.

"Close your eyes and take a nap, Grace," Luke says gently.

"I don't nap."

"Sorry. Close your eyes and let your neurons take a break and repair themselves. I'll wake you up when I get the sims settled in and possibly having their first frat party."

Grudgingly, Grace lies down on his bed. She expects her hives to get worse, since she's in Luke's bed, where Luke hypothetically thinks about all the things she thinks about in her bed, and that should be enough to freak her out, except it doesn't. Maybe she isn't that allergic after all. The sheets smell a little bit like sweat, which is gross, but it also smells like Tide and whatever you call that stuff you put in the dryer to prevent socks from sticking to each other.

She can live with that, she decides, and falls asleep to the rhythmic hum of Luke's computer.