Phoebe Thunderman will go down in the history textbooks as a hero, in a generation Thunder Girl will be the hero who young heroes look up to. Max Thunderman will go down in the history textbooks as a notorious villain, Dark Storm will be the monster under young heroes’ bed. Their relationship will confuse historians endlessly, reading through mentions of them in the news, never interacting with each other despite their prominence on opposite sides suggesting that they would face off at least once. It'll confuse historians until they find policies by both the Hero League and the Villain League that both Thunder Girl and the Dark Prince were never to interact with each other on missions, never to be informed of the other’s movements, for the benefit of both Leagues and the hero and villain in question. Of course, with one answer comes many more questions for the historians, why avoid sending your greatest assets up against each other? It'll be a question they ponder until they find the missing piece, their identities: Max and Phoebe Thunderman, twin siblings, with a history of abandoning the higher goals for each other. Looking at any interaction between the two, no one could’ve guessed their alternate identities’ relation, scarce calls in their hero and villain days, but endless texts with topics ranging from random images, to a shared memory, to a fear, and every now and then Phoebe telling her brother when their parents had gone out during their monthly visits to Hiddenville, it all looks very innocuous, perhaps the only strange thing was the lack of work talk, of course, historians can never get the full answer.
Phoebe always made an effort to visit their family once a month, spend time with them and her old Hiddenville friends for a weekend. Max was never invited, it came with the territory of being a supervillain in a family of heroes, but Phoebe always made sure to send him anecdotes and photos, because even if he didn’t say it, she knew he missed their siblings- they missed him too. Then one day, he joked bittely about missing Chloe grow up and Phoebe knew she had to do something, so she invited him to come with her, except he accurately pointed out that their parents, well their dad, would blow a gasket at the idea. But once Phoebe decides on something, she does it, so she convinced their parents to let her babysit while they went out, letting Max in once they've gone.
Chloe was overjoyed to see her brother again, and Max felt an overwhelming sense of relief that she remembered him and wasn’t scared of him- he wasn’t sure which scenario would've been worse. Nora and Billy were a little less excited, but they trusted Phoebe to not put them in danger, and sometime during the third month of this arrangement the relationship was as it had been. Sometimes they watched movies, sometimes they baked, sometimes they did homework- an aspect of school neither Phoebe nor Max found themselves missing.
It became their new routine, one that worked for all of them, the Thundertwins and the Thundersiblings at large reunited. Of course, it was hidden from their parents, but Phoebe suspected that their mom knew, and Max knew she did. She left him a note in the box of his favorite cookies and kept them restocked. She always left a note, telling him random anecdotes Phoebe didn’t know, a reminder that she loved him, nudging him to eat because he looked like he was losing weight in the photos- small things like that. Then, one month, their routine fell apart.
Max was waiting across the street from their house, pretending like he was on his phone, letting his long hair obscure any chance that his parents, well, his dad, would have of recognizing him. Usually, Phoebe would text him to come in, but she didn’t. He waited about ten minutes before going in anyway, trying to convince himself that she forgot because despite the unlikelihood of that happening, it was better than the alternative of her deciding that he shouldn’t be allowed to see their siblings- an understandable choice, but not one Max wanted to see play out.
Instead, he was greeted by Nora. She muttered something to Billy, who zipped Chloe away, as she approached Max.
“What’s going on?” Max asked, staring at where the two had left. Had he done something paticularly neferious recently that made them fear for Chloe's safety? He couldn't think of anything, and he would never hurt Chloe. Then he noticed that it was just Nora and him, no Phoebe. “Where’s Phoebe?”
Nora handed him a tablet. She was quiet, and, Max noticed, paler than usual. On the tablet was a live-updating article titled Thundergirl Kidnapped… fuck. Max frantically scrolled through the story detailing Phoebe’s kidnapping and, thank god, subsequent rescue.
She’d been held for almost a month, no wonder she wasn’t here. It didn’t detail injuries, and Max wasn’t sure if he resented that or was grateful, but it did detail the conditions of her prison. It made Max’s stomach curdle reading about the small cage and various instruments of pain that had been found all with Thundergirl’s DNA on them. Then he saw where she had been held and he almost did vomit.
He had been there in the last month, multiple times. He had been in the same building where his twin was being held and tortured, and he hadn’t known! He hadn’t done anything, and he’d probably helped the people who had done it. Max knew they hurt people, it was part of their job, but hurting Phoebe? Yeah, she was a hero, he got that, but it didn’t work in his brain. Hurting Phoebe just wasn’t a thing someone could do and expect Max to be okay with. The Villain League probably knew that- it was probably why he hadn’t known. Max was glad he hadn’t known, kind of, because he knew, instinctively, that he would’ve betrayed the Villain League. He would’ve gotten her out of there, and she would’ve suggested he come with, act like the Hero League would accept him back, but he wouldn’t have gone back with her because the Villain League was where he belonged. But he still would’ve betrayed them to keep her safe.
His first thought was why had nobody told him from the Hero side of things, but the answer was obvious. Phoebe was the one who usually told him things, and she couldn’t tell him this.
Nora was watching Max’s reaction and pulled him onto the couch when his legs decided to give out underneath him.
“She’s safe.” Nora offered in way of comfort.
“Where?” Max croaked. He needed to see the damage for himself, the damage he could’ve stopped if he knew, but maybe could help fix now that he did.
“Her apartment in Metroburg,” At least she wasn’t in the hospital still. “Link’s taking care of her.”
Max pushed himself to his feet. “I need to see Phoebe, Nora.”
Nora nodded, she’d been expecting this, since when had his little sister become so smart? “Go, Link shouldn’t mind. We’ll see you next month.” She hugged him and then pushed him out the back door.
Max rode his motorbike, inspired by Tech Rider because honestly, it was fun to see the Hero pissed off when Max was faster than him, towards Phoebe’s apartment hoping that Nora was right and Link wouldn’t arrest him on sight. Even if he was going to arrest him, ideally he would let Max see Phoebe was alright first.
Max slipped into Phoebe’s apartment building and knocked on the door, constantly looking over his shoulder knowing that most of the people in the building would arrest him immediately.
Link answered the door and pulled him inside. "Max, what’re you doing here?” Link tensed. “You’re not here to take her back are you?”
Max stepped away from Link. “No, of course not.” He’d been accused of some dastardly things before, most of which he had done, and usually, he was flattered, but this just offended him.
Link relaxed, which was really quite stupid, if Max had been here to take Phoebe, he wouldn’t have told him. Max made a mental note to update the security in Phoebe’s apartment since, obviously, Link was not going to be enough. “Then what’re you doing here?” Link asked.
“I just heard,” Max explained. “I wanted to see how she was doing.”
Link frowned. “You just heard? The story has been all anyone’s talking about and you just heard.”
“Well, the fact we had kidnapped someone probably wasn’t big news there, and I don't think they tell me stuff having to do with her, too much conflict.”
Link nodded slowly. “Well she’s in the kitchen, but before you go you should know... most of the wounds were painful but not permanent, some scaring of course, but the real damage was mental.”
Max stilled. “What do you mean?”
“She hasn’t talked in the week she’s been back. She screams in her sleep, but she doesn’t talk. She writes but it doesn’t really make sense… they speculate they punished her for talking and her brain’s still overriding that, or that it was self-inflicted and they were trying to get information out of her.”
Max didn’t want to think about what type of punishment they had to inflict to get his normally talkative sister to be silent, or what it would do to her to force herself to be. “Can I see her?”
Link gave him a smile. “Sure, just be… considerate.” He said, after taking a moment to choose the right word. “She might not be ready to see you.”
Max nodded. That would hurt, but if she wasn’t ready he could accept that, he would make himself accept that.
“Hey Phoebe,” Link announced himself softly before entering and sitting in Phoebe’s eyesight, guiding Max along with him. “Max’s here to see you. Is that okay?” Link didn't touch Phoebe, didn't kiss her, it was wierd to see the two being so... unaffectionate, not cold, but careful. Though, careful was what was needed in a situation like this.
Phoebe nodded slowly.
“Do you want privacy?” Link asked.
Phoebe nodded again and went back to scribbling. Max patted Link's shoulder as he left, he knew it was killing the other man to see Phoebe like this, it was killing Max too. Link was right about Phoebe's wounds. She looked… not good, but like she was going to be. A few bandages and bruises here and there, maybe a little thinner than usual, her hair was dull and limp, but it wasn’t that which was worrying Max.
It was her eyes, how they flicked around every moment or so before returning to her notebook. Her notebook, which was filled with tiny scribbles of notes in every possible nook. Her hands were covered in ink and trembling. Max hated it.
She stared at him.
“How’re you feeling?”
She stared for a moment longer, before returning to her notebook.
“Can I see what you’re writing?” Max asked.
Phoebe shook her head.
“Okay, uhm,” Max wanted to fix this, but he didn’t know how to fix this, was there a way to fix this? Was there a way to get his sister back? Maybe it was too soon to be thinking about it, to be panicking that he wouldn't, but if Pheoebe never recovered and Max was there in the building, it was all his fault. But Max was a supervillain, he was smart, he wasn't going to give up already, certainly not on something as important as this, he could figure something out. There was a stack of notebooks on the counter, looking relatively new, Link must’ve bought them earlier that week. “Can I use one?”
Phoebe glanced at what he was looking at and reached over to pick one up. Max thought she was going to say no, but instead, she placed one in front of him along with a pen.
“Thanks, Pheebs… what do you write?”
“Okay.” Max bent his head and started writing and for a few minutes, the kitchen was filled with only the sounds of pen on paper. Max wrote out a to-do list, he wrote out things he wanted to ask Phoebe when she could communicate again, a list of present ideas for Billy- his birthday was coming up.
His list was interrupted by Phoebe slowly pushing her notebook towards him. She’d turned towards an empty page and on the top had written: MaxMaxMax hi.
Max smiled at her and made to reply but she pulled her notebook back and started scribbling again, Max tried not to stare until she pushed it back towards him. He read the new addition: smilesmirk annoying! familiar. s a f e safesafesafe I want to be safe. Write back Too much clutter I can’t sort I can I can I can! I have to! I will.
Max tried to decipher Phoebe’s writing which seemed to be just a stream of consciousness with a message to him thrown in every now and then. He wrote back in his own book.
Hi, Phoebe. You’re safe, we’ll keep you safe. You just focus on getting better, sorting through that nerdy head of yours.
Phoebe read it and immediately started scribbling: So neat, orderly, filtered. Why can’t i do that it’s like i've forgotten how to do that and everything needs to get out out out of my head so light to give what I need to say and it can’t come out of my mouth no talking there can’t be any talking no no no. Phoebe had stopped herself from writing more nos and pushed it back to Max who grimaced before writing back in his own book.
Take your time, Pheebs, it’ll all come back with practice. No one expects you to figure it all out right away.
I do I need to I want to. Why can’t I speak I want to speak I want to talk but i can’t it’s paralyzing my throat my throat is paralyzed i can’t talk because if i talk it’ll be paralyzed and then i can’t breathe and I need to breathe because I need air.
It’s okay, Pheebs. You’re okay, you’ll be able to breathe when you speak, I promise. Take your time, if you want to try now that’s okay and if you don’t that’s okay.
Kind kind kind safe safe safe speak speak don’t don’t okay. Breathe… breathe… breathe… don’t cry… breathe… breathe… breathe…
When Max read this he realized he was the one crying, Phoebe hadn’t been trying to calm herself he’d been trying to calm him. Always the concerned one Phoebe. I’m okay. You’re okay. It’ll be hard, but it’ll come back to you.
Come back. I miss you, here. You won't because you like where you are. With them.
Max’s breath caught because he knew Phoebe was right, he was happy where he was. But them was also the people who had hurt her. I am, I wish I wasn’t but I am. I didn’t know they had you, I wish I had. I would’ve saved you.
Happy? Happy. Happy is good. Don’t apologize say sorry for happy. You did what you could, it was little, but you do enough.
You’re too good Phoebe.
Too good too bad too much mess.
Take your time, sort through it, it’ll come together. It’s already coming together, even if you don’t see it yet.
Might not see it, but it’s there. Outside eyes are better than mine.
In this case, yeah, Phoebe they are, trust me.
Trust Max, trust him, trust you. Trust is there.