"I feel foolish," Fanatic snarled. The angelic member of the Prime Wardens was currently clenching her fists as tightly as she could, glaring daggers at an apologetic Haka.
"Now, now, Helena, I told you that this was an absolute emergency," he smiled sympathetically. "Anthony's at the Nexus, M'kk's still on his sabbatical, and Hugh's near Dok'Thorath. You're the only teammate I could get on such short notice. And you fit the bill so well! One second."
Haka gently tweaked the fuzzy pipe cleaner halo that adorned Fanatic's head, ensuring it was sitting perfectly.
"There. Now, remember, keep the religion to a minimum, and big smiles!" Helena's attempt looked more like she was trying to shrug off a missing arm. "...Maybe don't. Okay, showtime!"
The Port Philip Children's Hospital is, like most children's hospitals, not the nicest place in the world to be. It's not without serious attempts to help the kids through their stay from doctors and nurses, but the children tend to be suffering from such serious conditions that it doesn't help at all.
But for one day a year, on December 24, the wards are always filled with joy, because that's when Santa Claus comes to visit.
"Ho, ho, ho!" Haka beamed through his fake beard as he stepped into the illness ward. "Merry Christmas, everybody!"
"It's Santa!" one boy piped up in excitement.
"What did you bring us this year, Santa?" a girl asked. "Did you get the Styling Shirley I asked for?"
"Of course I did, Cindy!" Haka smiled, hoisting his heavy sack in front of him. "But not just that! All you children have been so nice, I had to bring my very special friend to meet you all. This is Krissy Kringle, the Christmas Angel!" He gestured to the door.
A few awkward moments passed before Fanatic stepped into the room, feeling very self-conscious. Her bedsheet angelic robes were not nearly as comfortable as her armour, and the wobbling halo on top of her head was dropping dust onto her nose, itching it fiercely. It was a few more moments before she raised a hand in greeting.
"Hello... children," she said, trying her hardest to seem confident and natural. "Like Aa--... sorry, Santa Claus... said... I am... Krissy Kringle. I am... a Christmas angel." She tried to gauge any sort of reaction from the room. "...Let us have fun this Christmas Eve."
"...Can I have my Styling Shirley now, Santa?" Cindy asked after a long moment of silence. At once the room was vibrant again, the children in the beds all asking for the toys they'd written to Santa about. Fanatic watched as Haka went from bed to bed, calling all the children by name, and handing out a gift from his bag.
It always stunned Helena to see Aata so amiable and kind. Most of the time, they saw each other as members of the Prime Wardens: the strongest fighters they knew. Haka in particular always seems so boisterous and jovial in battle, raring for a new foe to punch. But here he was now, pretending to be Saint Nicholas for the sake of some ill children. Helena often wished she could switch off in the same way he did; to have some semblance of downtime. But it just wasn't her nature.
"Excuse me, Miss Kringle?" a voice piped up from one of the beds, shaking Fanatic from her train of thought. She approached the occupant, a young boy with a pallid face, and knelt next to him.
"Speak, child," she commanded, before a look from Haka made her cough awkwardly. "That is... what is your name?"
"Tommy," the boy replied. "Are you a real angel?"
"...Yes," Fanatic replied, trying to temper her usual zeal in proclaiming such. "I am a real angel."
"Will I see you again?"
"I... am not sure," she replied honestly. "I may be busy this time next year. Bathory always tends to mount a resurgence in the winter months." She paused. "...Bathory is a person very high on Santa Claus' naughty list, you see."
"...I won't be here next year."
"Then why did you ask if you will see me..." Fanatic trailed off as the realisation sunk in. For the first time since she entered the room, her focus wasn't on how humiliating her costume was, or on how happy Haka was making the children. She stared into space, quietly thinking about how to respond.
"...Yes, Tommy," Fanatic spoke up. Had Haka been listening, it would have been the only time he heard his teammate's voice shake. "I promise you will see me." The boy looked relieved as she stepped away to let Haka give him his gift. With one last "Ho, ho, ho!", he waved to the kids and beckoned to Fanatic to leave the ward.
"I can't keep up with the trends," he laughed to himself. "What on earth is a Galactic Waveryder doll? Super-Sheriff? Lazer Shark? These new cartoons, I swear..."
"How do you do it?" Fanatic asked quietly, interrupting Haka's joviality. "How can you look those children in the eye, knowing they may be gone at any moment, and not burst into tears?"
"...Because I don't want them to have the memory of Santa crying," he replied simply. "Look, I'm sorry I called you in. I didn't know it would affect you like this. You can go if you like, but I've still got to spend more time here. Touring all the other wards, then coming back to these kids for the board games championship. In any case, thank you for coming, Helena."
In silence, Fanatic turned and headed for the door, not even taking the time to change from her costume. Haka sighed a little as he heard the characteristic sound of her takeoff.
"Where's Krissy gone?" Cindy asked as Haka stepped back into the room.
"Oh, she had some very important Christmas business," Haka explained. "Now, who's up for Parcheesi?"
At that moment, a brilliant golden light shone through the window. Covering his eyes, Haka grinned as he made out the shape inside. The window flew open and Fanatic soared in, bags of toys hanging from her arms.
"There will be no Parcheesi until all gifts have been delivered!" she declared, a fierce smile on her face. "I, Krissy Kringle, shall not falter in my duty as an angel of Christmas! Now, who asked for the Galactic Waveryder?"