Will’s nails click against the nearly-frozen bark of the tree. It is getting cold out, and soon they will have no more time for foraging for anything other than food; but for now, there is still leisure. Will’s prize dangles beneath him, rapping against the tree beneath him as he makes his way up.

It had taken a while, to nab this many; he’d had to choose a spot out of sight of the window, where nobody would see him to come out with a broom and shoo him away. He had made off with an entire string, the bulbs on which would be enough to complete the circle around his and Hannibal’s nest, as well as using a few to mark important digging sites before the snow gets too hard.

The nest is large, but cozy; although it is getting dark earlier and earlier, Hannibal had chosen them a tree at exactly the right angle to catch the rays from a nearby street-lamp. One of the good, older types of street-lamp, with the soft warm light; not the horrid new kind that the humans seem to be putting in more and more of, with bright white light that hurts Will’s eyes.

Hannibal is preparing food for the two of them: there are nuts acquired from some children in the park, to accompany the remnants of a former neighbour, who had chattered at them one too many times. Will drops his prize in the entrance to the nest.

Hannibal looks over, his tail perking up. He noses through the prizes. “Gorgeous, Will,” he says. “Thank you. These will do very nicely.”

“We’ll have to detach them,” says Will, and begins the work of chewing through the wires that connect the colourful bulbs. It tastes pretty good, actually, and Hannibal tugs it out of his mouth. “Don’t ruin dinner,” he says. “We’ll finish the decorating later.”

They arrange themselves opposite each other for the meal, like they always have, and when they have both had their fill of both nuts and meat, Hannibal pulls the lights towards them and curls his body around Will’s. They begin to detach each bulb from the wiring it sits on, chewing leisurely, eating the pleasant green insulation and spitting out the tough metal bits inside.

“Did you hear,” says Hannibal as they work, “That they went to the media about us?”

Will sets aside a red bulb and starts in on a green one. “What, the humans who put these out?”

“Yes. There was a whole feature on CBC. They can’t figure out what we want them for.” The disdain nearly drips from Hannibal.

Will snorts. “Well, what do they think? What do they want them for?”

Hannibal rubs his chin slightly against Will’s fur, a comfort. “It would be a logical question for a so-called journalist to ask. But apparently they simply cannot fathom that we might want them for the same reason the humans do: the joy of bringing cheer into one’s home ahead of a long winter.”

“What are their theories?”

“They think,” says Hannibal, “That we’re mistaking them for pinecones. Pinecones, Will. Another one thinks that we merely like eating this stuff.” He holds up the green insulation. “Apparently, it’s soy-based.”

Will chatters a little in mirth at that theory. “I mean, it’s not terrible,” he says. “I wouldn’t choose it over acorns, though, or peanuts from the depressed office worker in the park. Or meat.”

“And they have the nerve to call us vermin,” says Hannibal mournfully. “Any rational society would either exterminate us, or give us the right to vote.”

Will licks underneath Hannibal’s chin a little to calm him. Soon enough all of the lights are detached, the insulation eaten, and Will sweeps all of the little pieces of wire with his paws to the edge of the nest and then out the side of the hole in the tree.

Hannibal arranges them in colour-patterned order, each bulb resting in a little bed of cozy nesting, with a space in the middle for where they curl up and sleep. The glow of the street-light catches the facets of the bulbs and they throw off reflections around the nest, the colours catching each other and merging to form new colours. Will has to admit that he hadn’t been quite sure about this when Hannibal had first singled out the bulbs to make off with, but now that they’re here, he can see why Hannibal had wanted them.

He arranges himself in the soft tuft of cotton in the middle of it all, and allows Hannibal to start grooming him; over his back first, then cleaning the dirt out of his paws, and finally licking gently over the scar on Will’s soft white belly, where the fur has never quite grown back. Will lets him, and closes his eyes to sleep curled up with his monstrous mate, in the splendour of colour and light that will hold back the dark and cold for another year.