Reviewer: SydneyWoo Signed [Report This]
Date: March 05, 2011 5:10 pm Title: The Dark House

Even after multiple readings, after days to think on this some more, to absorb it more fully, I still don’t have an intelligent word in my head.  I wish I had some right now.  But I don’t.


What I do have are feelings and impressions that I just can’t seem to put into words.  Gahh, I wish I could really say more, but that is the impact of this masterful fic.  It’s overwhelming in its beauty.  The way that you have tapped into the soul of a parent and pulled out that primal fear that is at the base of every parent’s worst nightmares.


Though not a parent myself, I feel Maddie and Henry’s torment as if it were my own.  The fear.  The anger at being separated from their son.  The anger at themselves for what is now 20/20 hindsight.  Of course NOW they can see how this all came to be, but how could they have seen it THEN?


And interspersed throughout this beautiful piece is such lyrical and poetic words that just make my mind ASDRFSWE;ALKDSMCFKSKDJHFHHSKDFHKSDJ and I feel all weepy inside.


*composes self*


Quick side note…[FEAR. A DARK HOUSE] and [SAFE. IN HIS ROOM.] is so unique and insightful.  What a wonderful way to set the emotional stage on the equally poetic mastery to follow.  It pulled me in visually and emotionally and I’m still geeking out about it XD  So freaking cool!


Maddie put her fingers to her mouth. Inside her body was a coldness, right under her breasts. She stared at the house, its squat frame, its neglected front. Perhaps, like its occupants, it had never known love, or compassion, or rationality. Its silent blankness offered no clues as to what might be going on inside.


Inside. While they were outside. Shawn and Gus, they could be hurt . . . into her mind seeped the sharpness of unknowing.


Shawn often hid his fear well, but Gus, Maddie considered, must be terrified. His mother, she should be here too. Slowly, Maddie shook her head. This was no good. She and Henry would have to serve as the boys' familial lifeline; it was no good to drag other loved ones into this until more was known. "Gus has a such a weak stomach," Maddie whispered, squinting at the upper windows. She hadn't, she realized suddenly, heard either one of them scream. Unwittingly, she stepped forward. "Henry," she breathed.

This whole passage breaks me completely.  Something about it just speaks to me in such a way that SDJFJSLDKJJJSLDKFJSLIDMFI…I have no words.  None. 

I simply love the way you’ve written Maddie.  We know so little about her, but I think you give amazing insight into her character and the relationship (for what it is) with her son.

I adore the way you’ve written Henry.  My mind is blown.  I can say no more other than guuuhhhhh

I am out of my MIND with the musings you’ve included on Yang…..

All this time . . . all this time. She had been . . . just down the road. Almost in breathing distance of all of them—just three blocks away—until Shawn's late teen years, when the family split up. Henry huffed his air angrily. He glared at the structure. His child was in there. His child had been targeted—and his ex-wife, and himself—but his child, since Shawn had been a child, had been in her thoughts. She had kept his picture in her house, as if they were childhood friends, or family. She had . . . Henry's thoughts turned red, then black

Oh My JASJDLFKJKJFLWKEJWER….his thoughts turned red, then black.  I get that. In such a primal way.  It’s fantastic and all I can do is stare and let it seep in some more.

Henry’s thoughts throughout are just so real, so palpable and tangible and HUMAN.  I can feel him vascillating between anger; at himself, at yang, at Maddie; to guilt, at himself for not seeing it, for blaming Maddie when she couldn’t have known.

Like all of your writing, the bar is set so high but you always deliver.  Each and every time without exception.

There is so much more that likely can and definitely should be said, but will have to go unsaid for now—simply because I can’t find the words.  That is no one else’s fault but yoursJ

Well done and THANK YOU for posting this.  No doubt, I will be returning to this masterpiece frequently.


Author's Response:

:D Thank you so much for reading this story and for your awesome review!!!! I am so in awe that you, the great master Woo, (Hail!) felt so "impacted" by the story that it left you with a speechlessness of sorts. O.O WOW. So honored for that—truly, I just worry myself when I try to write fics for someone with a specific request. There's always fear that it won't be what—or close enough to what—was asked for, for that person and for whomever else reads it. XD But I really wanted to give this request a try—it struck me as fascinating, to single out Maddie and Henry and sort out their thoughts during the scary moments of waiting. I just love that you could "feel" what they felt—everything, the fear, the "NOW" from the "THEN". I tried really hard to look at the house through their respective eyes, to not have the audience's POV where you get to see what's happening inside. And I'm not a parent myself either, but I hoped their feelings would come off like real parents—at least in the way I see them portrayed as parents in the show/from the episode. 

OMG, I have to say that I'm also speechless at your wonderful review—I can't tell you how happy and grateful and floored and giddy I feel that you got so much out of this story (I will try but I may fail at complete expression so I just want to say now OMG THANK YOU at least a billion times over). 

GUH!!! I loved that you mentioned the "section" breaks. It was a last minute thing; I wanted something signifying breaks but my usual three spaced stars just didn't seem to fit. The house itself was exuding a dark, ominous thickness, solidness, as if it was sort of making itself presence known as the most powerful character in the story. (At least in my head—though Henry was putting up a pretty good fight too.) xD So I thought maybe it would "like" an introduction for its gaping monstrosity; it turned out to be sort of a bleak introduction, but I liked it because the sections where it's the house, Maddie and Henry are so bleak and dreary and fear-filled. I thought about having the part where Maddie is pointing to the picture in the "Safe" section, but because the "Dark House" is so overpowering, I wanted to limit view of Henry's home, where, in spite of the violation to Shawn's bedroom, still feels like a safe zone. It no longer felt relevant (in the story) after Shawn dashes out of the house. 

In spite of usually not liking Maddie as a character, I really enjoyed getting a look at her at another angle through this exploration (and the episode too).  Most of the time she seems, to me at least, to not give a damn about the family she's estranged herself from, but in spite of that, Henry and Shawn love her back fiercely and almost refuse to blame her for things that she is obviously at fault for. The moment that the picture thing was discovered felt so pivotal because you get this great outburst from Henry and lots of "I didn't know!" from Maddie, but again, at least to mean, it felt like Henry was almost pulling back, trying not to fault her because of that "NOW" and "THEN" clause. I just was so taken with that scene and the whole of the implications. 

!!!!! :D I LOVE that you mentioned the part with Maddie thinking about Gus. Most of the story ending up being about the two of them thinking endlessly about Shawn, and I (too) felt a little bad that I was neglecting Gus, because it feels impossible not to think of Shawn and Gus as sort of brothers (fraternal twins?)—as a pair, and for Henry and Maddie to not recognize it too. But in that scene, I was specifically inspired by YOU and "Hubris"—getting so intimately acquainted with Winnie Guster. It helped me to find a more "motherly" dimension for Maddie—picturing the two families gathered together for dinner somewhere in the past when Shawn and Gus were preteens, thinking that maybe Winnie rubbed off a little on Maddie with her overprotectiveness of Gus (but maybe Maddie didn't recognize it until that very moment when she's standing outside the house). :) So more extremely grateful thank yous for that—and also again for "Hubris", because OMG, WHAT a story that was. (*again staring at you with awe*)

Thank you—I'm glad you like my take on Maddie. We do know so little about her, and from what we've seen it's really hard for me not totally dislike her and/or find her one dimensional. But I worked hard to hopefully find a more human side to her, and to be less negative and possibly less critical of the way she views her role in the family (and her family in general). I am so relieved that it came across well. :) And you liked Henry too, yay! :) When I saw the episode and realized that Henry was more proactive then I remembered, I worried that some may not like this version of him, but I didn't want to go back and "fix" him either. He felt like nervous energy personified, wanting to explode out of his own skin if it would just help to get someone inside. I also hoped that he would come across as that Henry that really loves and worries over Shawn that we get to see occasionally (from the Henry in "65 Million Years Off", freaking out over Shawn going to the possibly dangerous old man's property, to the Henry who still refuses to tell Shawn that a beloved pet of his from childhood did not go to live out its days on a farm, lol).

After all this time, I don't want to forgive Yang as easily as the last episode tried to make us—that she was just some innocent victim in the scheme of things. The Yang that enters the room to confront Yin doesn't feel like a victim to me; even in Shawn's bedroom, in spite of chains, she feels at home and in control. And it's just bewildering and horrifying to think that she was so close to them for so long, plotting, planning, wishing, dreaming. I wonder if there hadn't been a picture—or if it had been Henry finding Shawn with her instead of Maddie, would things have been different? Would Henry have had the sense to put mini-Yang under surveillance, or would he just have seen what Maddie had—a sad, harmless young woman? I loved the idea of Henry's thoughts turning colors—questions, realizations, worries, fears, rages, everything just racing right into a darkness so overwhelming that it's impossible to be rational (which is something Henry is usually great at). Yes—I love what you have said about Henry's thoughts. :D *melts into goo* 

*MAJOR EXTREME BLUSHING* *Humble grinning* :D Thank you so much for everything—THANK YOU (with a bunch of incoherent babbling following). I'm totally giddy over your love and enjoyment of this piece ("masterpiece"?! *totally faints here*). THANK YOU for reading it!!!!! :D



Reviewer: Jenn1984 Signed [Report This]
Date: March 02, 2011 5:33 pm Title: The Dark House

Seriously, this is better than I could have hoped for! I love all the small details you put into the story, such as the "fine hairs on Henry's arms stood up" and Maddie's eyes "moving quickly like fish trapped in a bowl". Gosh those are beautiful details.

I love the urgency and the true terror in these thoughts you've written. They're utterly fantastic.

Favorite line is the very first one:

No way in, as if the moment Shawn and Gus stepped inside all entryways were bricked up, locked up, barred up, chained shut. They'd need a bulldozer, a crane, an explosion to get inside.

Gosh that's freaking gorgeous!

Thank you SO MUCH for answering this challenge! I'm sorry it took me so long to read/review, but I'm totally pimping this on LiveJournal this weekend.

<3 Jenn

Author's Response:

YAY!!!!!! You liked it!!!!! :D So happy you do. :D Thanks so much for your review, so appreciated! :D :D :D

I'm glad you posed this challenge—thank you! :D It gave me a chance to explore Maddie, probably one of my least favorite characters on the show. The way she comes off to me (in the show) is usually cold, selfish, off-putting and I never liked the way she interacted with Shawn or Henry—kind of inadvertently "leading" both them on. But then in the last Yang episode, I saw another side to her. She got on plane because Henry called her regarding Shawn, in spite of learning that Yang was involved. It was as if she *finally* had a maternal instinct and was willing to be friendly enough with Henry so they could figure things out. Then when she found the picture . . . I really wanted to explore that in this piece, mostly objectively, without having outside blame—or even a really tangible blame come from Henry—get in the way of the rest of her thoughts (if that makes sense, lol). But I guess I just wanted to give her "voice" more than "put words in her mouth/head" about what kind of parent/person I see her as. ;) So maybe I'll have to give her another chance in fic. xD

*SQUEEEEEE* I love that you picked out some of my favorite lines from the story! :D And the one in bold, that was actually the first few words of the story I wrote. (I was considering using that as part of the summary.)  Again, I'm truly ecstatic you enjoyed it!!! LJ pimping—so honored! :D Thanks again!!!!



Reviewer: Psychrulz Signed [Report This]
Date: February 24, 2011 2:18 pm Title: The Dark House

Oh my goodness….this is downright amazing. Very few people write Maddie, and I’ve always been so intrigued by her character, so I love reading when someone does. This story hit so close to home for me, you have no idea. As a mother AND someone who is trained as a counselor/psychologist, this story just completely ripped my heart out.


I have felt from the moment it was revealed in the show, the amount of guilt Maddie would have over having been the one to allow Yang to first lay hands on her son. It’s the choice we as parents must all make- someone compliments our kids and asks to speak to them, maybe touch them…what do we do? Is this a well-meaning person who just has something nice to say, or is it someone that might have less than innocent thoughts running through his or her mind? We want people to appreciate our children. We’re proud of them. We want to show them off, and we love it when someone outside our own little biased world sees how special they are. But we also want to protect them from a world that is admittedly very dangerous, especially for children. And what happens when we make the decision to allow a stranger to have contact with our kids…and it turns into this?? Oh wow. The guilt is so palpable.


Even more palpable is the guilt that Maddie feels as it relates to how she keeps misreading her own child over and over and over. It’s like for all her training and professionalism, even for the fact that Shawn’s abilities most likely came directly from her, she just can’t get a good read on him no matter what. I love how you captured this.


And then there’s Henry. You nailed his character perfectly too. The one person in the family that actually understands the kid, and he’s the one that neither Shawn nor Maddie listen to. Frustrating! But he adores and is devoted to Shawn with everything he has, no matter what. And the determined role of ‘Protector’ that Henry has to face, while being forced to put it aside by letting Yang into his home…and into the sacred space that is his child’s bedroom. Any parent will tell you, their child’s bedroom is to be protected above all other areas of the house. It is the one place that few visitors are ever allowed to even see, much less enter. To be forced to allow such a villain to breech this threshold, especially knowing the feelings Yang has had for Shawn since he was a child…it’s powerful, and the picture you painted of what was going on inside of Henry did it justice.


There’s also the fatalistic air you covered the storyline with. It’s fantastic and eerie. For all the “what ifs” that you’ve brought forth from Maddie and Henry, you then introduce the idea that in the end, Shawn would have been targeted by Yang no matter what. Again, as parents, we want to know we have control to protect our kids, and when something goes wrong, we feel incredibly guilty…but what’s worse…feeling that we made the wrong decision, and thus failed, or feeling like we had no power to make any difference to begin with? Ugh!


More than anything, I love how you portrayed Maddie and Henry as parents first. They are both tied to the Police Dept, but in that moment, when their son’s life is on the line- none of that matters. They’re not even fully aware of what’s actually happening on the Police side, and they don’t really care. All they want in this moment is to have their son back, and that’s really what it’s all about in the end.


Ok…yeah…I loved this story. Awesome work ;)

Author's Response:

WOW! O.O Thank you so much for your long, in depth review! I'm so appreciated and still floored by everything you have said—so do forgive me if my response is incoherent babble compared to this great loveliness. So happy you loved it—even found it "awesome" and "downright amazing—WOW. :D What really gets me is that you say the subject "hits close to home for you" (and "ripped your heart out"—OMG!!!! O.O). I'm not a parent myself, so I wondered when I was writing Maddie if it would be too far off base. On top of that, Maddie is not a favorite character of mine because I've always seen her (in the show) as someone who is cold and slightly manipulative—even if it's not her main intention. The way she just abandoned her family (though maybe she had good reasons that haven't yet been explored onscreen) and sort of led both Henry and Shawn on whenever she returned to town just ... sort of hurts me, lol. But then at the same time, I didn't want to portray her specifically on my personal interpretation of her—make her feel really guilty about this long ago past thing just because. I hoped that I could put motivations behind it, so that eventually she and Henry could rationally see that there was little (if anything) they could have done to protect Shawn against a threat like Yang's, but still be feel out all those what ifs and wonder endlessly if they could have done more. So that was my intention.

Plus, since I'm not a parent, I can only guess at how difficult everything is. Gah. Everything you said about the choices parents must make when it comes to their children's lives—this thin line of pride and fear—I really hoped to illustrate that. How far do you go—do you shelter your child from everything, or do you let them experience things—and what if either path still leads to something bad? I really wanted them to be Shawn's parents here, feeling a bit lost and helpless, just staring at the house. (When I saw the episode again, I realized I'd forgotten how much Henry was trying to do to get into the house. But I liked the idea of him and Maddie standing together with their horrifying thoughts running wild, so I went with that version.) 

You are so right—Maddie really doesn't know Shawn very well. On the one hand, she will always be his mother of course, but on the other, it seems like they are hardly related. For me, it just feels like she isn't capable of making the effort, perhaps because her view of Shawn is locked with him as a little boy. All of this makes me feel really bad for Shawn, because he really loves her and forgives her for everything immediately (while shifting whatever blame he can to Henry, when he doesn't deserve *all* of it). 

I'm so happy you liked Henry in this story! Everything from the episode—from looking for the picture and then finding out it, to seeing Yang coming down his driveway, to  trying to break into the house—I hoped to capture here and explore on—all the urgent energy Henry outputs as he tries to solve Shawn's problems and get him back to being safe.

YAY!!!! So so so happy you mentioned (and felt!) the "fatalistic eerie air" over the story. I wanted to lean more towards angst/drama, where there wasn't a happy resolution at the end—instead, just a longing for it. I hoped the whole thing would feel creepy and kind of uncomfortable, just having Maddie and Henry "face off" against the house, both of them willing to give everything to know something while the house offers nothing and keeps offering nothing. 

Thank you so much!!!!!! I'm so happy you read the story and I'm just overjoyed by your response to it. *sends hugs* :D



Reviewer: Anonymous Anonymous [Report This]
Date: February 21, 2011 5:25 pm Title: The Dark House

i likey!!!!!!!

Author's Response:

Thanks for your review. :) Glad you liked it.



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