Sebastian sat at a small coral desk, looking over the lyrics to be sung at the annual Winter Festival. The crab sighed, as he heard the light-hearted conversation going on behind him; the Princesses had only two weeks to polish up for their performance before the citizens of Atlantica, but they didn't seem to even notice. One voice was noticeably absent from the chatter; the prettiest and most talented voice had not even shown up yet,...as usual. The crab cleared his throat, picked up his baton, and turned to face the girls. "All right now, let's have some quiet, please! It's time to turn dat gabbing into music. De first song,..."

Sebastian was interrupted by a young mermaid who swirled into the room, full of red hair and a happy grin. "Hi Sebastian! Sorry I'm late!," chimed the girl, as she took her place among her sisters.

The crab frowned with puzzlement. "You're not late. Dat must mean something's wrong. You all right, child?"

Ariel shrugged and grinned. "Just fine! What's the first song?"

The crab paused, then snapped back to business. "Okay. De first song is "ICE ON DE WATER". Keep it peaceful, Alana; not a dirge, okay?"

Alana nodded, with a smirk, as the other girls giggled. Sebastian tapped his baton to shush them, then raised it for the first note.

"In winter-time when I was young,
I swam upon a glorious sight.
It was a mountain of frozen crystal,
A glittering jewel of bluish light."

Sebastian rapped his baton with irritation, and the girls stopped. "Arista. Dis song is supposed to be sung, not mumbled."

Arista bristled. "Well, it's not my fault! They're drowning me out! I can't even hear myself with Adella screeching in my ear!"

"I do NOT screech!", returned Adella, hotly.

The crab looked up in exasperation. "Girls! Please!"

"What's Christmas?", asked Ariel, with excited expectation.

Sebastian looked at her, dumbly. "What? Christmas?"

"Yeah! I was talking to Archemedes today, and he told me that humans are about to celebrate Christmas all over the world!"

"Ariel! What does dat have to do with your singing?!", asked the flustered crab.

"Well; Archemedes said that they sing songs at this time of the year, just like us!"

Sebastian lowered his baton and frowned. "Yeah,...well, they have dis holiday when they stop fighting each other for a few days,...all dis "good-will" towards each other and they give gifts and such. Just a bunch of human nonsense."

Ariel looked dreamily past the crab; as if she was trying to envisage Christmas. "It sounds wonderful to me,...maybe we could give gifts too!"

"It's a human holiday, girl! Just you forget all about it and get back to singing", urged the crab.

Ariel sighed. "Okay, Sebastian." The practice did not go as well as Sebastian would have wanted. Try as he might, he couldn't get Ariel to concentrate on her singing. Without her, the other girls fell flat. "It was dat Christmas stuff to blame!", growled Sebastian, as he retired for the evening. "Maybe the child will have forgotten it by tomorrow,..." The crab put on his seaweed night-cap, turned down his phosphor lamp, and crawled into bed. It wasn't long before his eyelids drooped, then closed. All over the Kingdom, lights went out and quiet fell peacefully over the sea.

Sebastian was snoring; making little whistling sounds; when a voice crept into his dreams: "Sebastian,...", it said. "Sebastian,..." It sounded like Flounder. The crab seemed to wake up, raising a heavy eyelid.

"Wake-up, Sebastian!" Flounder was there, right in front of him. His eyes were bright and he wore a cheerful grin. Something was different, however: the little fish was wearing a false beard.

"Flounder!", the crab groaned. "What are you doing here at this time of the night,...and with dat silly beard!"

Flounder laughed. "But I'm not Flounder!"

The crab raised an eyebrow. "Oh yeah? And who are you supposed to be?"

The little fish beamed proudly. "I am the spirit of Christmas past!"

Yawning and frowning at the same time, Sebastian shut his eyes. "Dis is not funny, Flounder. Play your little joke, tomorrow."

A sudden current of cold water rushed over the crab's bed, pulling off his covers and snapping open his eyes. "I am not Flounder! I'm the Spirit of Christmas past, I tell you. You gotta come with me; I'm gonna show you lot's of neat stuff! Grab onto my tail."

Sebastian was too stunned to say anything; he obeyed without thinking and his bedroom turned misty before his eyes. Flounder seemed to be swimming, but nothing was clear except for the rushing of the water and Flounder's cheerful voice.

"We're going to visit your past, Sebastian,...before you became such a grouch!"

The crab looked down, and the mist cleared. He knew this place! It was his childhood home; the clear warm waters off the coast of Jamaica. The bright sun dappled the corals and sponges with color. Tropical fish, who he knew by name, swam close-by.

"Dis is amazing! But, why did you bring me here?", asked the crab.

"To teach you the Christmas spirit before it's too late",announced Flounder.

Sebastian looked at the fish, and frowned. "Hey! Wait a minute! Fish can't grow beards,..."

Ignoring him, Flounder grinned, as he pointed a fin at the coral. "Look there!"

Sebastian turned and looked; he broke into a smile as he saw a group of fish, crustaceans, and other animals chatting together. "Why, dat's my old friends! We started a band together,...who's that!?" The crab couldn't believe it. There he was among the others! Of course, he was just a youngster then; he sat at a make-shift set of drums and held some drumsticks almost as big as himself. The other animals also had instruments, and they soon started up a squeaky tune.

Flounder wrinkled his brows. "I see why you switched from drums to conducting."

"Well,...I was just starting!", defended the crab, as he gazed in amazement at the sight. "Oh, Mon! Those were de good old days! What a time we had!"

"What tune are you playing?", asked the fish, with a twinkle in his eye.

The crab paused to listen. "Oh; dat's a Christmas song we once heard some,...humans play."

"I see", said Flounder, with a smile.

Suddenly, the water swirled, and Sebastian's friends were hidden behind muddy clouds. When they cleared, the crab saw a different scene: an older Sebastian was saying goodbye to his old comrades in music.

"We're so happy for you, Sebastian!", gushed one fish. "Playing at El-ectric City is a really cool gig!" The other animals patted an obviously proud young crab on the back. "Don't forget us after you're famous!", laughed an octopus. The young Sebastian smiled back at him. "Of course I won't! Don't be silly!"

Flounder looked over at a suddenly silent Sebastian. "Did you ever see them again?"

The crab turned his eyes away, guiltily. "Well,...no. But it wasn't my fault! I was so busy, you see. And I didn't have the time,..." The crab closed his eyes, sadly. "Oh, Mon,..."

"Oh, Sebastian! Wake up!", whispered a happy, feminine voice.

The reluctant crab opened one eye; there was Ariel beside his little bed. She wore a shimmering cloak of purple and a happy smile.

"Time to get up, you old sleepy-crab! We've got places to go!"

"Ariel?", asked the crab, desperately.

"Nope! I'm the Spirit of Christmas present! Weeee!" She giggled as she raised her arms and spun around.

"You didn't see Flounder leaving, did you?", grumbled the crab. "You couldn't miss him; he was wearing a false beard."

In answer, the girl took his claw in hand and pulled him out of bed. She swam so fast that all Sebastian could see were streaks of light in the darkness.

"Where are we going?", he gasped, after finding his voice.

"We're going to visit all of the Christmas cheer that's going on this year", laughed the little mermaid.

"Can't we visit it after I get some sleep?"

"Look! Here we are!",answered Ariel, as day sprang over the water. Sebastian saw that they had returned to his old neighborhood. There were his friends; grown-up now, and all gathered together.

"What are they doing?", asked the crab.

"They're giving Christmas presents to each other!",answered the happy girl. "Look at all the joy they are sharing!"

Sebastian looked at the old familiar faces, and had to admit that they were all smiling as they exchanged seaweed-wrapped gifts. One lobster shook his gift next to his ear, while a seahorse chuckled at him. Hastily unwrapping it, the lobster beamed as he admired an old pair of claw-warmers.

"Dose raggedy old tings aren't much of a present", commented Sebastian.

Ariel smirked at him. "It's not the gift that matters,...it's the giving. See?"

The crab saw that the lobster was warmly hugging his friend. "Yeah,...I guess so", said Sebastian, with some sorrow and regret in his voice.

Ariel took the little crab in her hands. "Time to go some- place else!", she said and off they went. When the water cleared, they were back in Atlantica. Sebastian saw Ariel and Flounder hanging decorations on a coral tree which the mermaid had set up in her room.

Sebastian looked from the "Spirit", who was holding him, down to the laughing girl hanging pretty shells on the tree.

"You two look an awful lot alike."

"Look at all the fun they're having!", urged Ariel.

Sebastian saw that his dear friends were having a lot of fun with this Christmas tradition. "Yeah; but I notice dat they didn't invite me", said the crab, with hurt in his voice.

Ariel lowered an eyebrow. "We did invite you, Sebastian, but you said you were too busy."

"Oh. Well,...maybe I should have gone with you. Is it too late now?"

In answer, the little mermaid took him back to his bed, kissed him on the cheek, and covered him up. "Now, you think about all the fun you're gonna miss by being too busy."

The girl faded, as Sebastian's eyelids started to close. He fell back into a troubled sleep.

He wasn't asleep long, when a powerful voice woke him up again. "Sebastian!", it growled. There was King Triton in his little room, just barely squeezing inside.

"Oh. Your Majesty. No need to bother with me; Flounder and your daughter have already taken me around."

Triton lowered his brows. "I am NOT the Sea King!"

"Sorry,Your Majesty", blurted the sleepy crab.

"I am the Spirit of Christmas future. Come with me."

Sebastian started to protest, until he caught the glare in the King's eyes. "Yes, your Royal Spirit."

They swam through a dark mist; when it cleared, Sebastian saw Flounder in his own little home. A girl fish floated beside him, and lot's of little fish played on the seaweed rug.

Sebastian smiled. "Why! Little Flounder's done got himself hitched!"

"Yes", answered the King. "He is very happy with his married life. He does have one sorrow, however. His old friend no longer has time to visit him any more."

Sebastian looked at the King with regret. "Me?"

The King nodded.

Sebastian returned his gaze to the happily-playing children, and his smile returned. "I'll visit them more often,...I promise. But what about Ariel? Where is dat girl?"

Triton stroked his beard in thought. "She has a family too, and is very happy. But her future is unclear to me; enough to say that she is unable to visit you. Now come. Let's see what life you now lead."

Triton took the crab to a dusty corner of the palace. An older Sebastian sat at his desk, scribbling out some musical notes. A pile of unplayed songs littered the unkempt room.

"I don't look very happy", sighed Sebastian. He looked over his future self's shoulder at the piece he was writing. "Not a bad song, though."

"Aquata and her husband play your works, of course. It is all the joy you have left, after turning away from friendship and pursuing your "masterpieces"."

"All the joy I have left. I don't want to live like dat! I want to have friends! Maybe have a wife and kids too! You've taught me, Spirits. I'll put more of de "good will" in my life!"

"That's the spirit! So-to-speak. As for the Human Christmas songs; you don't have to play them, you know. Don't forget; humans are barbarians."

Sebastian scratched his head. "You sure you're not the King?"

"Time to go home, Sebastian", returned the King. "Close your eyes."

Sebastian obeyed, and sleep took him once more.

The next morning, the crab peeked cautiously around before opening his eyes. "Good! No more Spirits! There's so much to do! Must see the King first!"

Sebastian jumped out of his bed and swam to the King's breakfast as fast as his feet could go. Ariel and Flounder were there too. The crab rushed up to them with a grin on his face. "Flounder! You don't have a beard!"

The little fish eyed him, nervously. "Am I supposed to have one?"

"And what's your name!?", asked the happy crab, as he darted in front of the youngest mermaid.

"Sebastian, are you feeling all right?", answered Ariel, with worry in her voice.

"You're not the Spirit of Christmas present, are you?"

" Nooo,... Try Ariel", said the girl, half puzzled and half amused.

"I might have known", growled Triton. "See Ariel! All of this Christmas talk has gone and rattled Sebastian"s brain!"

Sebastian rushed up to the King; still with his silly grin. "Oh, your Majesty! I need a favor from you. I need to take a few days off, if you don't mind. I must see some old friends who've I've neglected for a long time!"

Triton seemed taken aback. "Well, Sebastian; I don't know. What about the Winter Festival? Do you think my girls are good enough to perform?" Ariel jumped in to help Sebastian. "We'll practice twice as hard when he gets back, Daddy! Won't we?" She turned to her sisters, who half-heartedly agreed.

Triton shrugged his approval.

"Oh,tank you! Tank you, your Majesty!"

When Sebastian got back, he was humming with happiness. Ariel noticed that, even as he was working hard to improve the Princesses' singing, the little crab kept his smile. "You seem to be happier lately",noted the girl, after their rehearsal.

The crab nodded. "It's just the Christmas spirit, Ariel! Oh! By-the-way, I want to tell you all about dis wonderful human holiday!"

Ariel grinned with delight.

The Winter Festival was an enjoyment for the whole Kingdom, and especially the King; who thought his daughters sang as good as he had ever heard them.

After listening to Sebastian's explanation of Christmas, Ariel decided to decorate a tree; just like Humans do. Of course,Flounder wanted to help, too. Ariel went to ask Sebastian if he wanted to hang decorations on the tree. She found him in his music room.

Sebastian smiled, as Ariel asked him, and put down his squid-pen. "Of course, I'll help! I'm never too busy to have a little fun with my dear friends!"

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