Akayona Secret Garden (AU)

It was a chilly mid-fall day as Hak made his way down to the gardens, his tools in hand along with other supplies he'd need, ready to help prepare them now that the winter months lay just around the corner.

First, he'd have to go about cleaning up all the rotting and finished plants and the weeds to make room for the flowers next spring. Then he'd have to start loosening up the soil and plant all the bulbs, before pruning back the perennials.

Unfortunately, it looked like it was going to be a long and chilly day that promised frozen fingers by the end of it.

No matter though. He liked looking after the garden and getting time to himself and to be with his animal friends.

He'd always been quite good with animals and had made it a point to help them out where and when he could. So, those odd times a bird or squirrel fell from its nest, he'd do his best to climb the tree and put them back, otherwise he'd look after them himself until they were ready to go off on their own.

Last spring he'd found a baby falcon and hadn't been able to find where it had come from so he ended up looking after it ever since. It had learned how to fly and hunt on its own but always came back to him either to share whatever it had caught or simply ride around on his shoulder.

He'd named the bird Gulfan, and even now on his way to the gardens he could look up and see him circling his path just above.

As he reached the gardens he carefully put down the bulbs and tools, and went to work pulling out the mess of dead leaves and weeds that lay in the flower beds.

It was a lovely garden, though it had seen better days. Before he'd arrived at the estate it had been neglected for years and so it had become overrun with bushes, vines and weeds all twisted into a thick knot, blocking most of the pathways in and around the main pavilion.

The housekeeper had given him the job of groundskeeper on a whim after seeing him helping out his grandfather in the garden one day on her way into town. She'd said they were short-staffed and that he seemed strong enough to help out with the manual labour. They could even pay him a decent sum for his time.

He'd agreed without a second thought and asked where and when he should arrive. Everything after that had been history.

By now he'd been working there at the manor for a little over a month, but with the sheer size of the garden with all its sections and ponds, he was still only about halfway done readying it. With winter only a few weeks away now and so much to clean away first, he hadn't had much other time to try and bring the place back to its former glory.

He'd have to be quicker if he hoped to be done in time. With that in mind, and having now amassed his first large pile of compost for the day, he picked up his pile and started to take it to the bin where he kept the rest of the compost as it slowly broke down into fertilizer that could be used later on.

However, after having taken no more than five steps out of the entryway, he was suddenly bowled over and knocked to the ground by what he could only identify as a red mass of something as it came flying around the corner, hitting him straight in the chest.

"Oof!" he groaned as he rubbed the back of his head where it had hit the ground.

He sighed as he looked around and noted he'd dropped the heap of dead plants during the collision and would have to gather them all up again, only slowing his progress for the day even more.

More importantly, what the heck had managed to knock them both over?

Looking down at his chest he got somewhat of an answer as he locked eyes with a bewildered girl who couldn't have been more than a few years younger than him. She had the brightest red hair that he'd ever seen. So bright that it seemed to burn like fire as the cold morning air blew it about her head. Recovering from their fall quickly enough, she immediately began sputtering out a string of apologies.

"I'm so sorry! I didn't see you there! Here, let me—"

"Miss Yona! Where did you run off to?" a young man's voice called out from a little ways away, cutting her off mid-sentence.

Before Hak could even get out any words of his own, the girl scrambled off of him, slapped a hand over his mouth and pulled them both back further into the gardens and behind one of the brick walls draped thickly in ivy.

He tried to struggle a bit before she desperately held a finger to her lips while looking earnestly into his eyes, begging him to be quiet and he relented, giving up and simply sitting there quietly.

Not a few seconds later the voice that had called out earlier grew closer, still calling for a 'Miss Yona' which Hak could only assume was this girl that now held him hostage in the ivy.

Only once the footsteps and voice faded out of range and she seemed sure that the young man was gone did she breathe a sigh of relief and slowly pull her hand away from his mouth and turn to him.

"I'm so sorry about that," She apologised, "I know it was quite rude of me, but thank you for going along with it and being quiet."

"Who were you hiding from?" Hak demanded immediately. "And why? You certainly seemed in an awful hurry to get away from whoever they are when you came running around that corner and bowled me over, which hurt quite a bit, I might add." He grumbled, rubbing the back of his head again as he stood up and offered her his hand to pull her up too.

She cringed at his last comment but gratefully took his hand anyway.

"Ah, yes, sorry again about that too. My father has company over and I was left to entertain their son. He's a bit older than I am and absolutely horrid to be around. He won't leave me be and keeps trying to flirt with me. I've been trying to lose him all day." She explained, expression somewhere between relieved to be rid of the boy and embarrassed at all the trouble she had caused.

"Ah, I see. Well, next time try to look where you're going before you go sprinting through these gardens. I'm here most days and I'd rather appreciate not having a repeat of just now, if it's all the same to you." He said, as he went back over to the entrance to start to regather the pile of compost he'd dropped.

"I will. But –here, let me help you with that." She replied, following him and crouching down to help him pick everything up.

Minutes later, they had everything cleaned up and the girl followed him to the compost where they put away the plant matter. He used the stick he kept there to mix it in with the rest to help it break down evenly.

With that done, Hak gave her a brief thanks over his shoulder and turned to get back to work.

"Wait!" she called halting him before he got more than a few steps away. He turned back to look at her.

"Is there -um - anything else I can help you with?" the girl asked. "I can't exactly head home just yet until that boy goes home, and I've nothing else to do." She muttered, fiddling with the hem of her skirts.

He thought about it for a moment. He still had a lot to do and it was taking him longer to clear everything in the garden than he thought it would. It wouldn't hurt to have another set of hands helping him if she was offering to help out anyway.

He shrugged. "Sure, if you'd like."

The girl's face lit up and she jogged a few paces to catch up to him as he continued on his way.

"I'm Yona by the way. What's your name?" she asked.

"Hak."

A few hours later, with dirt smearing both their faces, he and Yona had managed to get everything cleared and most of the soil turned before it got any colder.

With the hard work out of the way Hak went over to where he had left the bulbs and grabbed them all, along with the flask he had brought with him.

He took a quick swig and offered it over to Yona who stared at him in surprise.

He chuckled lightly at her expression.

"It's hot cocoa that my gramps made me this morning, not alcohol." He said with a friendly grin. "I'd planned to have it once I was done, but we might as well take a break and warm ourselves up a bit now."

She smiled back at him and accepted the flask, humming in contentment as she took a sip to find the drink still steaming even after all this time.

They sat down for a bit on a short stone wall, passing the flask back and forth between the two of them between sips and warming their hands on the sides. As they did so, Hak took the time to really look at the Yona for the first time since they'd met that morning.

He was embarrassed to note that she was actually very pretty. While he'd noticed her hair before –quite easily given how bright and vibrant it was –he hadn't really noticed the colour of her eyes until then.

His own eyes were a bright, electric blue, but hers were unique in a way he'd never seen on anyone else before. Somewhere bordering a stormy sea and violets blooming in the summer.

He could tell she had a rather petite frame underneath her thick, extravagant winter clothing. And her hands were small and smooth looking, lacking the kinds of calluses his own had. Clearly, she hadn't done a day of work in her life.

Just who was this girl exactly, he wondered?

Before he could think on this any further, however, Gulfan decided at the moment to come sweeping down out of the sky to land on his shoulder, startling Yona. She nearly fell off the brick wall, and would have if Hak hadn't caught her with an arm around her waist in time.

"Where on earth did that thing come from?!" she cried, hand on her heart trying to get it to slow its rapid pace.

"Gulfan is a 'he', not a 'thing'." He corrected, watching as her face changed as she began to look at the bird in awe.

"Is he yours?" she asked.

"No. Gulfan isn't anybody's but his own, I just looked after him when he fell from his nest as a chick and he's decided to hang around and be my friend."

"Is he safe?"

At this, he laughed a bit and gave her an impish grin, "Well, he is with me. You can pet him if you're not too scared. His feathers are very soft."

"I'm not scared!" She said, scowling at him for teasing her but still looking hesitant as she slowly reached forward to touch him. Halfway, however, she wimped out andin the end only ended up poking him instead of petting him, making the poor bird let out a shrill and indignant call in offense.

"Not like that! Like this," Hak said, reaching for her hand and slowly guiding it up to his shoulder to stroke the soft downy feathers on the bird's chest.

"That's it, just like that." He said gently, slowly letting go of her hand to let her pet him on her own.

Gulfan, luckily, kept to being on his best behaviour as he let Yona pet him. He had been teasing her before, but sometimes Gulfan did nip him on the ear if Hak annoyed him or didn't give him a treat after he'd helped him with something.

Oddly enough, the bird seemed to be enamoured with the girl, even letting out contented little chips from deep in his throat as he cocked his head to the side to look at her.

Silly, fickle bird, he thought to himself. Minutes later though it seemed that the moment would have to be cut short as the wind picked up and he noticed that it was starting to get dark.

That was the problem with winter, he supposed. It started getting dark as early as four in the afternoon. He much preferred the summer, when the days were longer, and he could spend more time outside in the warm sun rather than shut in at home with Gramps and his younger brother in their little cottage.

"Looks like I'll have to leave planting the bulbs until tomorrow then." He muttered as he hopped down from the wall before helping Yona do the same, "Well, at least we got the worst of it done today. The rest won't take long."

"If it's alright with you, could I join again tomorrow? That boy will be visiting again and . . . well, I had fun helping out." Yona asked, looking away shyly.

He was surprised at first.

He hadn't expected to ever see her again after today. He'd spent the better half of the last month working his days away out here on his own without ever crossing another soul until he headed back home in the evening.

It had been cold out all day and all they'd done was turn the soil and pull weeds, yet she had never complained even as she got covered in dirt and their fingers grew numb in the biting wind. She was even saying she'd had fun.

It was odd, he thought. But, somewhere deep inside he was happy he'd get to see her again. Even if it was just to help her hide from whatever guy was unsuccessfully trying to court her.

Well, it couldn't hurt to have her come back and help him again.

"If you'd like. All that's left is planting the bulbs for the spring before winter fully settles in, so it won't be as tiresome as it was today. I'll make sure to bring more hot cocoa for us both tomorrow then." He said casually as he gathered up all his gardening tools in a wheelbarrow and began to cart it back towards the entrance.

"Besides, Gulfan certainly seemed like he'd like to see you again, seeing how warmly he'd acted towards you earlier."

"Really? Thank you! What time do you usually get here?" she asked excitedly.

"Around eight o'clock, but you don't have to be here that early. Come whenever you'd like."

"Okay, I'll see you tomorrow then. Thanks again for letting me hide out here and for the hot cocoa!" she smiled. With that, she took off down the path back to wherever she had come from.

Hak sighed. It was silly of him, but he was actually excited to come back here tomorrow.

What a strange girl, he thought.

And with that, he started the long trek home, Gulfan sitting on his shoulder the whole way there.

He'd have to remember not to say anything to Gramps when he got back. He'd be sure to tease Hak relentlessly for getting knocked over by a little girl and letting her talk him into allowing her to hang around his work.

He'd go on and say that she'd have him wrapped around her little finger in no time and Hak was in no mood for dealing with that.

When he got home, he'd simply have a nice hot meal and go about his evening as usual.

Besides, she was coming back again to hide out tomorrow, but after that, the boy she was hiding from was sure to go home and that'd be the last he saw of her.

Right?

Note 1: Yes, I totally called it a falcon instead of a hawk because Hak's Hawk sounded a bit silly in my mind.

Note 2: I am aware that this story doesn't really capture Hak's teasing, more bluntly put personality as might be preferable and I think that's because I'm trying to make him into a gardener as opposed to a warrior, so his personality is coming off as a little bit softer. I'll try to remedy that a bit more another time but for now, I just wanted to write this all down before the idea for the story got lost inside my head.

Note 3: I was tempted to go make it more similar to the secret garden by having Su-won as Collin and Yona living with her uncle Yu-hon instead of her father but I knew it would be really difficult not to lose Su-won's entire personality by having him in Collins role even it fit perfectly because they were cousins too. The affection went the other way though and I just wasn't sure how to make that work at all.

Note 4: A lot less happened in this then I had intended so I'll probably have a second chapter covering the rest of what I'd planned to happen in a few days.

Lastly, thanks for reading and reviews of any and all kind are always welcome. Hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season!