A/N - I know this is late since Bonfire Night was yesterday, but I didn't get chance to write it last night. This is only a little drabble-type ficlet, but hopefully it'll amuse and maybe even educate you a little. Just as an overview, Bonfire Night (or Guy Fawkes Night) is celebrated in the UK and some of its former colonies on the 5th of November in remembrance of a plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament. Guy Fawkes is the man who was supposed to carry out the dirty work of lighting the fuse, but he was caught by guards and the plot failed. The day is celebrated with fireworks and by burning 'guys', which are like models (kind of like scarecrows) meant to resemble Guy, on bonfires, though these days not many people still burn a guy. And now that you're thoroughly educated, read on.
The sky was a sizzling, crackling shower of sparks; colours exploding and fizzing into the night, swallowed by the darkness. The smell of burning and gunpowder floated down, acrid but not unpleasant, and a thin haze of smoke drifted over the field. Below the fireworks, a bonfire spat tiny sparks onto the grass where they glimmered briefly and died. The silhouette of a guy burned in the centre of the inferno, blackening and slowly crumbling as parts of its body peeled away in ashy flakes.
A little way back from the bonfire, among the crowd that had gathered to see the show, two figures stood with their heads tilted back to watch the fireworks. The shorter of the two looked mildly impressed, but the taller looked far more excited, the fire reflecting in his unearthly crimson eyes causing the illusion that there were also flames flickering behind the irises.
"Hey, wow, Arthur, look at those!" the taller man said, tugging on his companion's arm and pointing up at several white fireworks that twirled through the air before exploding with a pop.
"They are quite good this year," Arthur agreed, looking faintly amused by his friend's enthusiasm. "Honestly, Gilbert, you're acting like you've never been to a fireworks display before." Gilbert shrugged, taking a piece of treacle toffee out of the paper bag in his hand and popping it into his mouth.
"I like fireworks," he explained around the toffee. "As well as anything else that goes boom!" Arthur smacked him lightly on the arm.
"Don't talk with your mouth full," he admonished in the manner of a parent for whom it is second nature to correct their child's appalling manners. Gilbert pouted, but was forced to obey as he struggled to chew the sweet.
"So, this whole Bonfire Night thing," he said when he had swallowed the toffee and made sure that all his teeth were still intact. "It's all about some guy called…Guy, who thought the king was a bit of a bastard and decided to blow him up, yeah? Seems like a bit of an overreaction to me, but what I want to know is, why do you celebrate an attempted act of treason? That's a little fucked up, don't you think?"
"We're not celebrating the Gunpowder Plot," Arthur corrected, watching the ascent of a rocket. "We're commemorating the inhumane and gruesome execution of Guy Fawkes." Gilbert perked up at the word 'gruesome'.
"Well that's all right then," he said. "Nothing wrong with that." He looked thoughtful for a moment, as if trying to remember something, but then he gave up. "How was he killed?"
"He was hanged, drawn and quartered," Arthur replied. He noticed Gilbert's blank look and expanded. "That's when you're hanged by the neck until almost dead, then taken down to be disembowelled and castrated-"
"Ouch," Gilbert interrupted, wincing.
"Oh, it gets worse," Arthur assured him. "You then have to watch your genitals and entrails be burnt before you're beheaded and cut into four pieces, which are usually strung up around the town as a warning to others"
"Holy fuck," Gilbert said, an expression of utter awe on his face. "You Brits take treason pretty damn seriously. That's a hardcore execution! It's like putting Hell in a sandwich and making somebody eat it. Whoever thought it up must have been a grade A psychopath, although you have to admire their creativity." Arthur looked at him bemusedly but decided not to question Gilbert's choice of simile.
"It was certainly a very inventive method," he agreed diplomatically. "Although Guy Fawkes was smart; he jumped off the gallows and broke his neck so he didn't have to suffer the latter parts of the sentence."
"And that pissed you off so much that now you celebrate his death every year?" Gilbert asked disbelievingly. "I mean, you have to admit that it takes a lot of bitterness to carry out vengeance for four hundred years. You even burn his image on a bonfire!" He waved a hand towards the guy.
"That's what happens," Arthur said calmly, "when you play silly buggers with gunpowder underneath the Houses of Parliament."
"You are so messed up," Gilbert said, looking rather impressed. "Your whole country is messed up."
"Maybe that's why we get along so well," Arthur deadpanned, and Gilbert laughed. Up in the sky, the final burst of colour and explosions lit up the darkness in a spectacular shower of glittering light.
"Well that was cool," Gilbert said after a moment. "So what happens now? Do you do anything else to celebrate? Arson, maybe? Or taking a piss on poor Guy's grave, because I don't think you've been quite brutal enough." Arthur ignored the sarcasm.
"No, I did that earlier," he said in such a serious tone that Gilbert wasn't entirely sure that he was joking. "Let's go back to my place and get something to eat. It's traditional to have jacket potatoes or roast chestnuts on Bonfire Night."
"Why?" Gilbert asked, frowning as he tried to make sense of what significance potatoes and nuts could possibly have.
"It's a small mercy to Guy's memory," Arthur said. "See, if you're not careful when you cook them, you'll end up blowing up your microwave in a mini re-enactment of what could have happened to the Houses of Parliament. It evens out the karma a little." Gilbert laughed loudly.
"That's utter bullshit!" he accused. "But it sounds fun."
"Don't get any ideas," Arthur said sharply.
"Oh, I would never destroy your kitchen appliances," Gilbert reassured him. "But, you know, for some reason I just remembered that West is spending the week in Italy." He tried to smile innocently, but it appeared as a frighteningly ominous grin.
"I don't think Ludwig would –" Arthur tried to protest, but Gilbert slung an arm around his shoulders and started to steer him back towards where they had parked the car.
"Relax," he said soothingly. "We can blame the dogs. After all, dogs don't know how to cook food properly, so obviously they'd fuck it up. West will never suspect a thing."
As the bonfire continued to crackle and lick the smoky air with tongues of flame, a manic laugh rang out across the field, causing several people to turn and stare in alarm at two retreating figures treading a path across the grass. One of the figures seemed to be trying to resist, but he was pulled along mercilessly until he gave up and acquiesced, resigning himself to the fact that the festivities of the night had only just begun.