A/N: Wow. This piece is weird.

I myself am redheaded, but don't hold that against me. Also, I live in San Diego. If you haven't heard about Firestorm 2003, check your news stations. It's bad. The Valley Center fire is about three miles from my house, and being blanketed with smoke and ash all day is not fun. But somehow it inspired me.

Disclaimer: Saiyuki is not mine, nor am I making any monetary profit from the publishing of this fiction. It just soothes my weird streak.

Stats: One-shot omniscient with no real place in the storyline. Sand, sky, and dry bushes. Yeah.

Warnings: If you're good enough to catch the metaphors, then there's a midge of shounen-ai and hints at a bit of an argument. Also, this is just a little experimental Saiyuki fic (first one ever *garsp!*) because, well, it just seems to fit. Because I didn't even decide on -anything- until just about the very end (as in this wasn't even going to be fanfiction but just a little bit of brain discharge...) it's kind of rambling and you'll just have to bear with me on that. It's not really like any Saiyuki fics I've come across, so you can decide whether or not that floats your boat. Highly influenced by the fires, art class, and the Riverdance music my mom's got on...

***

Smoke. Incessant and overwhelming, the acrid burn of fresh smoke fills the air, scattering with it solid, steaming snowflakes of ash. The sun itself is coated, blotted away beyond the yellow-black plumes to only the deepest orange. As a result, the land below is bathed in a sick, golden light burned gray by the heat.

And in this glow, his hair mirroring the burnished copper haze of the sun, he watches.

*

To truly understand the mind of a redhead, one must recognize the history therein. Red hair holds apparently no possibility for human camouflage, despite the tiger's arguments to the contrary. It protects little better from the sun than blonde locks, sometimes leaving bearers with even fairer skin. Ancient Greece held the belief that one born redheaded would revive from the dead as a vampire. Copper curls, then, were the devil's seal. Later, during the immigration boom following the Potato Famine, the Irish were turned away from prominent establishments, often upon first sight of their hair. Ruddy locks and freckles became the brand of the poor, even if many such Irish had been blonde. Red hair was easily recognizable through the coating of dirt, easily made fun of, easily caught out of a crowd. Thus, having the markings of one so condemned, redheads had to develop a certain fire to match their color.

Later, when true beauty was realized and even coveted, this fire became not only stereotypical but advantageous. Who better to watch your back than one of the Fighting Irish? Who better to drink yourself into stupor beside? Who would so easily apply to a pickup line involving Lucky Charms? While Ireland was in no way the only land that produced the redhead, they became the national breed, a source of pride where once only shame had come of the color. Through folklore, a celebrated saint, and a certain brand of cereal, a genetic hiccup has become recognized as enviable.

So, redheads became petted, prodded, even lucky. A rare breed known for habitual spontaneity, fierce loyalty, and the ability to find a four-leaf clover in any patch they choose.

Still, it is hard to classify a redhead upon first sight. Although the wide array of colors could not be matched by a boxed dye, Nature herself has come playfully close to the synthetics of her own volition. From the palest sunset strawberry to the deepest auburn, anyone with a tinge of red to their hair has suddenly received claim to the title. Few, however, retain the spark to prove it.

And one spark, if not properly handled, can start a wildfire.

*

In this toxic fog the whites of his eyes are yellow, burned like the brush only miles away and bloodshot from poisoned tears. He walks away, his pace lazy and unconcerned. He will reach his destination soon enough. Behind him, the flames eat into patch after patch of rough brush, advancing in jagged peaks like erratic heartbeats. If he runs, the air will eat into his throat, tearing unmercifully into tender flesh. And so he forces his own calm, ignoring the roar of the conflagration behind him, confident as his feet sink into sand that he has miles before he is caught.

*

Wildfire creates its own wind in an endless thirst for oxygen. It whips the air about, sucking it dry of all nutrients needed to continue the fanciful, destructive display. With air and time, almost anything can be consumed. And the air is all too willing to rush to the demand.

Wildfire creates its own wind to supply for grounded fireworks shows, a brilliant dance obscured by a screen of smoke. A selfish, teasing lover that moans and screams but hides herself beyond the screen, keeping darkness complete by blotting away the sun.

Sometimes, sometimes she is kind. The smoke dissipates in the air, leaving only the smell of her to seep through your clothes. You can watch the embers until they blacken, see her consume the fuel provided at your beck and call. She can dance before you at these times, twisting her fingers to the sky before collapsing at your feet. She can pull you to her, warming the blood and whispering, giggling as her stage crackles. But this, no matter how she tosses her hair, this little playmate is tamed, synthetic. Blonde roots sprout at her heart.

Neither match nor charcoal could call forth anything else on its own. But under duress, she fights. Your playmate and companion creates her own wind in search of nourishment, forcing out sparks to survive.

And one spark, if not properly handled, can start a wildfire.

*

He winces against the hot air about him. It whips his hair into knots that stick to the wetness of his eyes and mouth. The sun bleeds in the sky, unable to tear through the thick veil that lends an uncharacteristic darkness to this desert day. He gazes into the sun, able to finally meet it with his eyes under these circumstances. Without the fire, he would be blind. But with this protection, this barrier, the sun is something to be held, a warm, soft thing to be taken in both hands from its perch in the sky. Compared to this air, it is welcoming. Behind him, the flames eat into the last straggling patches of rough brush, the roar lost in the sounds of crackling, dry wood. The winds gust harder, faster, and he smiles into them even as ash leaves white dots upon his skin. No one could die without a fight.

This day saw a race between two redheads, the victor decidedly 'true' in avoiding burnout. Had not the blinding sun sparked a dropped cigarette, such vindication would not have come. And now the sun is something to be held, not untouchable but merely distant and uncomfortable. But the knowledge of its accessibility is enough.

He allows a characteristic grin to grace his lips and spits into the sand by his feet as the sky begins the slow process of clearing to crystal blue. Wildfire still flares angrily behind him, though his evasion has of late lasted miles.

Continuing his pace, lazily plodding through the sand, he spares no look to the destruction behind him. The sun, now brightly bursting in an attempt to cover up for previous vulnerability, chases him toward the horizon.

And he closes his eyes against the glare, smiling to see shadows of green reflected upon the inside of his eyelids. Red is always better appreciated when beheld with its complement.