A/N: My kids had to write a story about a gate for the standardised school testing this week. So I did too.
The factory gate swung to behind them, almost catching Chat Noir's tail. They fist-bumped for the cameras, but mostly for each other, as swirls of tiny ladybugs rebuilt the collapsing building behind the gate. A tiny act of closure.
She couldn't remember anything, at least, not after getting angry. She sat collapsed on the ground, confused. One of the other factory girls came up to her, touched her shoulder gently. Cautiously. They exchanged a glance, and she knew what must have happened. Together on the ground, one kneeling and one sitting in loose-limbed shock, they looked at the magically rebuilt gate.
It was still locked.
"Aargh, I'm never going to finish this assignment in time now. Why do people get upset over such small things?"
Tikki looked at her Chosen. The kwami knew what it was for a human to be only thirteen, and this human in particular was sweet and kind to her limits, but... sometimes Tikki wished those limits included just a little more awareness of the world around the girl. She kept the gentle, encouraging tone in her voice and said "Maybe there was something wrong with the situation that wasn't obvious at first glance. What did you see?"
Marinette looked puzzled. "A factory fire?"
The girl was starting to think about it, Tikki could see. She opened up her laptop as if to work on the assignment, but then clicked open a newsfeed and rewatched the video footage.
"Just a fire, Tikki. I really need to get some sleep."
The kwami hid a sigh, and snuggled into her own blankets. Might as well rest while she could.
About 3 am, Marinette sat bolt upright in her bed.
"Tikki, the gate was locked!"
Chat Noir stood on the rooftop across from where that day's akuma fight had been. Something about it still bothered him. He'd talked to Plagg earlier, but his lazy kwami had just slitted his eyes at him and said "Why worry? You know Ladybug's Miraculous will have restored everything just exactly as it was."
He stared at the building, lights inside and sound following a steady rhythm. The security guard's car coming by the outer gate and pausing there, once every eight to ten minutes, checking it was shut and locked.
"Exactly as it was..." he murmured to himself.
"Meet me at the gate", she said breathlessly into her communicator.
"Already on it", he said behind her ear.
The bag she'd brought was heavy. But she couldn't risk using magic. Not his, not hers.
"You have eight to ten minutes once the car moves on, My Lady."
She slung her yoyo to the factory roof and held it, waiting. The car pulled up to the gate, a burst of noise in the otherwise subdued night. It paused, flashlight shining back and forth from the window, and then drove on. Silently, they leaped into the night, flying over the gate as if it had never been there.
The windows of the factory were dusty, but clean enough. To the heroes peeking through, everything seemed normal inside as best they could tell, if you were a shift worker at a small factory. There were women moving back and forth, operating small machines, carrying pieces from one bench to another. Security was low key, just padlocks on the doors.
Just like the gate, the locks were on the outside.
She handed him the second pair of boltcutters from her bag, and pocketed the matches.
The women milled around outside the gate, some crying, others frozen with shock. Fire blazed from the windows of the top floor for the second time that day. They watched as the building began to crumble and collapse from the inside. Also for the second time that day.
For the first time that day, they were all outside when it happened.
A/N: In memory of the Triangle Shirtwaisters. Thanks for reading. I've a personal request: no matter how ordinary everything seems, please, as you go through the world, practice asking yourself "What – or who – is missing from this picture?". We need to help each other not fall through the cracks.