References to sexual assualt.
Maria had two Barbies when she was a kid. She infinitely preferred to steal her older brother's GI Joes, but in the instances where he was actually playing with them at the time—she was never allowed in on that, she was a girl—or, out of spite, had left them in a place she couldn't reach, Maria made sure her Barbies were in pants and the most sensible Barbie shoes to be found and sent them out to defend Hearth and Home.
It was infinitely more interesting than whatever the fuck they'd manage to get up to at the Fake Mall.
In high school, Maria found her first true love: rugby. She'd had two concussions by her senior year, a broken ankle, and more than a few bruised ribs.
She went to Berkley on a scholarship.
The Air Force recruited her practically the second she walked on campus. They had a booth set up between the cafeteria and her dorm, and she glanced at their sign. It was all the encouragement they needed. In fairness, she didn't take much persuading.
She had pants and sensible shoes on, and flight navigation sounded better than comp & rhet any day.
She suspected she was a lifer even while being a reservist during her years at Berkley, but it was proven to her in her first few years of active duty. Things were set for her: she was going to fly planes and shoot targets until shot down or forcibly discharged.
Then she was shot down on a mission originating from Bagram and spent six days at the mercy of men who liked neither Americans nor women, and certainly not a combination of the two. Just because she was a pilot didn't mean Maria had skimped on hand-to-hand. Nothing else could come close to the rush she'd gotten from rugby, so she had simply trained harder and longer than her peers.
She broke a lot of bones, caused a lot of screaming. Not enough to keep herself out of harm's way.
Rescue came in the form of SHIELD and years later, Maria would learn had been completely incidental to the actual mission parameters. She woke in a SHIELD run medical facility where they took better care of her than she'd ever received in her life, and left her alone until she could get up of her own accord. So, three days.
She asked the first doctor she saw about getting back to Bagram, and the doctor said, "Let me talk to someone."
Whomever she spoke to sent an agent, who said, "We can take you back to your unit, of course, Lt. Hill."
She tilted her head. "But?"
"But you helped our agent accomplish his directives while three-quarters dead, so frankly, we'd like to steal you out from under the Air Force's nose."
She blinked at that. "That's not—I have a contract."
"It wouldn't be the first time we'd negotiated a transfer," the man said.
Maria couldn't believe she was thinking about it, even considering leaving the Air Force. It had been her home and family for the better part of eight years. But she'd seen the way the agent she'd helped fought. And the way he hadn't even considered not taking her out of there with him. She said, "Tell me what you're offering."