Maria almost didn't notice her. Dressed like a student–Docs and ripped jeans, layered t-shirts and rubber wristbands supporting a rainbow of causes–she almost blended in with the rest of the college crowd. Maria's glance had swept dismissively past them; they'd collectively spent enough just getting here to build three schools and feed the labourers' families or hire teachers for a year. The kind of work Maria was supposed to be monitoring for Stark.
But, at the last moment, before she walked past, she picked out those dark eyes–a little wild, a lot heartsick–and her gaze stuck. Maria nodded fractionally, and ticked her head towards the students' canteen, hand spread wide across her thigh.
"Maximoff," she said five minutes later as the young woman shuffled in out of the sun. The back of her neck was burnt already, made more visible by her scruffy ponytail and the hunch in her shoulders.
Maximoff nodded back cautiously, eyes weary, and Maria wondered if she'd ever trusted anyone besides that brother of hers. "Hill," she said as she sat down across from her.
"Didn't expect to see you here," Maria said neutrally. She pushed a styrofoam cup of milky tea across the plastic table. Maximoff didn't take it, possibly because Maria obviously hasn't touched her own. "What brings you to Joburg?"
"I did this." No dissembling there. If everyone was this wonderfully direct, Maria would probably be out of a job. "I know what that's like, to have your home fall down around you. I wanted to help."
"There are other–" Maria started to say, but then she realised what Maximoff must be doing, why she'd travelled to the far side of the world all alone, doubtless under a false passport. "You're using your powers, aren't you?"
Maximoff didn't say anything, but took a sudden interest in her tea, wrapping her hands around the cup, still not drinking.
"You can make things go better, can't you?" Maria prodded, imagining a construction site where everything always went well, and what that would do to financial margins and overheads.
For a while, Maximoff didn't say anything and neither did Maria. They contemplated instead the impact they'd both had on this place, for good and ill. They looked at beige tea and temporary buildings, but not each other's eyes.
Finally, Maximoff drank her tea in one gulp and said, "I don't want to be the woman who set the Hulk on a city of more than a million people."
"Better to be an Avenger?" Maria asked, pushing to her feet as well.
"Perhaps. As long as that lasts."
Maria watched her return to her group, enjoying the shade for a few moments before she too had to be on her way again. Back to work for them both. She wondered how history would remember Maximoff; would it be as a terrorist or as a hero? Would it be as both?
At least, at the end of all this, Maria knew what her place would be: the quiet one who got things done, and that history remembered not at all.