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Viewer's Choice

by Jayne Leitch

[Story Headers]

"In fear, one flees. In horror, on the other hand, there is passivity, the passivity of presence. Horror involves a helplessness which fear evades. The evasive activities of fear may be pointless, even self-defeating, but they are activities nonetheless. Horror is a spectator's emotion." --Robert C. Solomon

Nicky can't quite believe what just happened. He can't stop thinking about it. He can't stop calling himself lame, inside his head and under his breath, for thinking about Vanessa while he kissed--while he actually kissed--Bus Blonde. Who's...who's blonde, and who's actually got something to look at when the buttons of her shirt gape, and who didn't hear him sound like a fucking retard at his locker earlier, and who's older. And who knows how to use her tongue.

He knows how she uses her tongue when she kisses, and he can't stop thinking about it. About kissing her, and kissing Vanessa, which he's never done, but God, he wants to. He can't stop thinking about how much he wants to.

He hasn't taken his jacket off yet. He flops backwards onto his bed and stares at the ceiling and can't stop thinking about Vanessa and Bus Blonde and kissing and hands in his hair and how much he wants to jerk off. Instead, he pats the breast pocket of his jacket and hears the faint crinkle of paper. It's reassuring that it's there, that it continues to exist, that he could reach in and pull it out and unfold it and find out what Bus Blonde's name is--

--or maybe she didn't write down her name. Maybe all she wrote was an address, or a phone number, or "Thanks" or "Never touch me again, you little pervert, I'm old enough to be your mother." Or maybe she wrote that she saw his mom on TV and that whole thing with the tongue, that was just her condolences.

As long as he never unfolds the paper, he never has to know for sure.


Sarah's sure he'd be great in bed. God, just listening to him explain Byron in class is like sex, just watching him walk down the hallways in those jeans is like sex. Better, even, because one look at him and she knows he wouldn't be fumbling around all overexcited and threatening to come in his pants because he'd never actually touched a girl without her bra on before. Better, because he'd know what he was doing, and she'd know what she was doing, and it wouldn't be like the other guys--guy--she'd messed around with at all.

Despite her increasingly more frequent fantasies to the contrary, though, she's not going to try anything with him. She'd like to think it wouldn't matter that she's his student and he's her teacher and there are rules, but of course it would matter. Stuff like that always matters. Stuff like that always has to matter.

She resents them, the things that matter. She resents them, but she understands them--more than she understands how the stupid TV show can matter to her mom right now. She heard her mom's voice as she walked past the teachers' lounge yesterday, and knew they were all watching the show. He was watching the show. And he might be new, but Sarah's pretty sure Mrs Kamerman or Mr Coulter or someone told him whose mom that was embarrassing herself in front of the whole country, opening her blouse for everyone to see. And pity.

It's the pity that matters most of all. Even though she knows it shouldn't.


Ari's not surprised to find Katie waiting for him in their bedroom, naked. He's lost count of the number of times she's invited him into their bed like this recently: smiling, wine on her breath, wanting him to prove that he doesn't see her differently. He's lost count of the number of times he's tried to talk about it instead, only for her smile to waver and his resolve to falter; he's getting a little too used to letting her convince him that talking can wait, even though he knows there's a very good chance that talking really can't wait. Even if, of the two of them, he's the only one who lets himself know that.

They've both had wine tonight, expensive wine, in volume. She'll be hungover again tomorrow. He remembers what she said on live TV the first time she was hungover, and he doesn't talk as she peels away his clothes. When he's naked and she's spread herself beneath him, he takes a moment to let her see him looking at her--just looking.

He doesn't see her differently. But as he kisses her throat and lowers his head to mouth her breast, he is aware of how differently he touches her. He's careful; not with her, but with himself. He doesn't know exactly where the lump is, even though she showed him not long ago--a week ago, she showed him where it was exactly a week ago--and even as he wants to reassure her just the way she wants to be reassured, he doesn't want to find it unexpectedly with his lips or his tongue or his fingers.

He's surprised that she continually chooses this over talking. There's much less risk of sudden discovery when they talk.


Katie has mused about the messiness of sex, been diagnosed with a malignant tumor, and flashed her cancerous breast, all on live television.

It all happened on television. And Katie hasn't watched a second of it.


The full text of that Solomon quote: "In fear, one flees. One can pretend to fear, accordingly, by pretending to flee, a vigorous activity in which there may be little visible difference between pretense and reality. In horror, on the other hand, there is passivity, the passivity of presence. One stands (or sits) aghast, frozen in place, 'glued to one's seat.' [...] Horror involves a helplessness which fear evades. The evasive activities of fear may be pointless, even self-defeating, but they are activities nonetheless, activities that can be feigned. Horror is a spectator's emotion."

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Fandom:  Other (Terminal City)
Title:  Viewer's Choice
Author:  Jayne Leitch   [email]   [website]
Details:  Standalone  |  R  |  gen het  |  5k  |  11/04/05
Characters:  Katie, Ari, Sarah, Nicky
Summary:  Horror is a spectator's emotion.
Notes:  Spoilers for Ep 3.
Disclaimer/Other:  They don't belong to me; I'm just putting words in their heads.

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