In Sickness and in Health

A/N: Okay, so I decided that I loved Marlin's character so much on Another Wonderful Life, that I want to write a fanfiction about him. So, this is about him struggling with his disease (mentioned in the game), and how it affects his marriage with Jill (main character). I hope you enjoy this first chapter! Let me know what you think.

Disclaimer: I don't own Harvest Moon.

I knew something was wrong the moment I woke up. Everything seemed fuzzy around the corners of my eyes; my breathing was irregular. I could feel a cold sweat immediately forming on my forehead. I gripped the sheets of the bed with shaking fists.

"Marlin?"

A harsh tone rang in my ears. I saw Vesta out of the corner of my eye, yet she sounded so distant. I opened my mouth to speak, but it felt like it had been sewn shut. All of my muscles were tensing uncomfortably. I pleaded her with my eyes, trying to signal to her that something was wrong. In an instant, her face grew crazy with panic.

"Marlin? Answer me!" She begged, coming closer to the bed. My breath grew shorter and my arms seemed to lose feeling as a whirring sound rang in my ears.

The fuzziness in the corners of my eyes grew to be a shrouding black that soon encased my vision all together. I was gripping the sheets so hard that my arms violently shook.

"Marlin!"

I could feel her picking me up in her strong arms and I could feel the cold air hitting my face as we emerged outside. But that was all I felt until the blackness completely took me over, leaving me breathless.

--

I opened my eyes to see a huge, silver disk staring back at me. It was Dr. Hardy, with his doctor's headband glaring into my eyes. He smiled sheepishly when he saw me wake.

"Rise and shine, Marlin." He said gruffly. I brought a hand to my cold face and brushed my fingertips over the skin lightly. I could feel again. I was alive.

I sat up, with some difficulty, and looked around. The first thing I saw was her.

Eyes red and puffy, she held a tissue to her face to wipe off the tears that had fallen. From the looks of it, she was trembling. I wanted nothing more than to take her into my arms and tell her that everything was all right, and that I was all right.

If only I could believe that myself.

The hand that wasn't holding the tissue was clenched at her heart, as if she was trying to keep it from bursting out of her chest. I motioned for her to come closer.

She took a timid step forward, and then stopped. As if she was afraid to come closer. I felt a twinge in my chest.

"Come here," I commanded weakly. She took in a deep breath and came right next to my cot, still slightly shaking. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the doctor bow his head and walk outside for a moment.

Her eyes filled with tears. It hurt to see, but I understood why. I snaked my pale arm around her neck and pulled her closer to me so I could kiss her forehead. I saw one of those silvery tears slip down her face, and I brushed it away gently with my thumb. She smiled slightly.

Sitting on the edge of my bed, I could see the deep bags under her eyes. I wondered if she stayed here all night.

"You scared me." She commented, her voice crackling like a raging fire. I nodded sympathetically. "When Vesta told me, I thought you were gone. I don't know what I would have done…"

"Shh. Don't talk like that, please." I pleaded her, lacing my fingers through hers. She looked away.

"I'm sorry."

I sighed. I had told her that this wasn't going to be easy. With the symptoms flaring up more and more as the pollution from the city crept into the small village, nothing was going to be so sure these days.

"Don't be sorry, just don't worry so much. It'll be okay." I told her, although I didn't believe this myself. Typical. Why did I dish out advice I never even followed myself? I felt her begin to tremble again. I brushed her bangs out of her face gently, and reached to give her another kiss. She closed her eyes as I did so.

"I'm just glad you're here." She commented.

"Yeah, me too."

--

The weather that day had been cloudy. My favorite type of weather. I leaned on the pitchfork I had in my hands and sighed, looking up at the different shades of gray that the skies held. I was utterly alone; Celia and Vesta were still inside, sorting through boxes of different seeds, trying to find the ones they needed to carry to the Inner Inn.

And that's when I heard footsteps come up from behind me. I turned to greet the potential customer, but instead, I found her. Jill. My heart fluttered around my chest like a butterfly.

"Hi Marlin," She greeted me in a melodic voice. I grinned.

"Hello."

The blustery wind whipped through her hair and it made me shiver. The clouds above grew darker, and a thunderclap sounded from far away, forewarning us.

"Looks like rain," She commented. I nodded thoughtfully, taking in a big gulp of cool air. We stood for a few moments, staring up at the bleary sky.

"Marlin?" She asked, averting her gaze back to me. I stared back.

"Hm?"

"I, uh, I have something for you…"

She reached behind her to zip her backpack open, and she pulled out something that was bright blue. She held it behind her back protectively.

"I know I haven't been here long… and I know this may be jumping into things too early, but," She began timidly. She paused for a moment, almost as if to regain composure. "But I don't care."

She pulled the blue feather out from behind her back. I stared in awe at the brilliance that radiated off of the feather. The deep blue hues and delicate texture were enough to make anyone gaze in wonder.

"I…" I started, not sure exactly what to say. I wanted to scream 'Yes! Yes! I've been waiting for this day!' But… I wasn't about to embarrass myself like that. So I blurted out the only words that seemed to fit.

"I love you."

--

I awoke the next morning feeling less than great. My whole body was overwrought, as if I had slept with my muscles tensed. My stomach rumbled, and I figured that I hadn't had too much to eat in the past day or so. I sat up with difficulty and rubbed my eyes, remembering the dream I had last night. Well, it wasn't a dream at all. It was more like a memory that I replayed in my head.

I was engaged to Jill. She proposed in fall, just a month ago. We would be married in a few days. Although at this rate, I'm not sure how well that was going to go. I felt like I had scared her out of commitment with me. Commitment to someone who could drop dead any second.

"Ah, you're awake." Dr. Hardy emerged into the room and smiled oddly. His mechanical eye stared at me and I shuddered.

"How do you feel?"

I shrugged.

"I'm kind of tense. And hungry."

He nodded and grabbed a chart off the desk next to me. Writing a few things down, he set it back on the desk.

"Good. No lightheadedness? No tunnel vision, sporadic breathing, or profuse sweating?"

I winced a little at the symptoms I knew so well.

"No."

The doctor grinned and tightened his white coat around him.

"Good! You're free to go. Make sure you eat a lot when you get back to the farm, although I'm sure that won't be a problem with Vesta as your cook." The man said with a chuckle. I smiled politely and stood. My knees were wobbly, and my muscles hurt when I stood, but other than that I was pretty okay.

I wandered slowly back to the farm in the bitter cold. Winter had hit this town harder than I remember from the past years, and I wrapped my coat around me tighter.

Everyone I passed waved at me warily, almost as if they weren't sure if I was alive, or if I was a zombie back from the dead. Nevertheless, I waved back and kept walking until I was crossing that familiar bridge just a few feet away from the farm. There, I saw Celia toiling through the fields, pulling at a weed on the ground. Vesta was dealing Murrey, who was trying to steal vegetables.

I entered the farm silently, trying not to make a scene, but it was too late. Both of the women were rushing towards me, exclaiming a series of jumbled words. I smiled weakly.

"How are you feeling? Better, I suppose? Oh, dear, we were so worried." Vesta said to me, a large grin on her face. Celia came up behind her timidly.

"I'm glad you're home." She said with a sweet smile, her hands behind her back. I nodded, and felt my stomach rumble once again.

"Oh, you must be starving! Let me make you something." Vesta exclaimed, bursting into the house. I was about to follow her when Celia grabbed my arm with a cold hand.

"I was worried." She commented, looking down at the ground. I squinted my eyes slightly. Celia had a habit of making me feel… uncomfortable. Vesta seemed to force us together when I began working on the farm. And Celia was all for the idea. She spoke sweetly when I was around, and smiled with in a shy demeanor. But truth be told, she just didn't get me. She was innocent and much younger than me, and everything about her was so simple.

When she found out about Jill, she didn't back off like a normal woman would. She tried harder.

"I hope you're feeling better." She said quietly, moving her hand to my face. I turned away.

"I am. Thanks."

Pushing open the door to the house, I tried to shake off the feel of her hand on me. The only hands I wanted on me were Jill's.

A heavenly smell wafted into my nostrils. Vesta's famous pumpkin stew. As repulsive as it sounded, it was the perfect dish. Sweet, but not too sweet, and had a marvelous texture. She had tried to teach me how to make it numerous times, but mine never came out as good. I sat down on my bed and pulled at my shoes, which had been practically suffocating my feet. Stretching my arms into the air, I longed for this muscular cramp to end.

"Celia, would you like some pumpkin stew, too?" Vesta asked her. She looked saddened.

"No… I'm going to go to my room." She concluded, stepping up the ladder to her quarters. I let go of a breath I hadn't noticed I had been holding.

After lying down for half an hour, I heard Vesta setting out the plates and forks. Standing with difficulty, I made my way to the table as she scooped stew onto my plate. Thanking her quietly, I dug in. Shoveling mouthfuls, I was done in minutes and wanted seconds.

The rest of the day passed by slower than I could have imagined. When I asked Vesta about work, she instantly had that crinkle above her forehead. She forbade me to work that day, or the next.

But that wasn't what bothered me the most. Jill hadn't yet come to visit. I sat on my bed, reading a book about harvesting, just waiting for that knock on the door. I almost had half the mind to go to her farm myself, but I just didn't have the strength to get up. Tears in my eyes, I fell asleep early, dreaming of that same memory I had dreamt of the night before.

I woke up the next day, realizing that Winter was coming to a close soon. The grass peaked through the snow on the ground, symbolizing Spring to soon come. Meaning, I was getting married in just a few days. I broke out into a sweat just thinking about it.

I stepped out into the cool air and breathed in heavily. It felt good to breath in the fresh crispness of the Winter season. Heck, it just felt good to breath again. I painfully remembered that morning, waking up to that irregular breathing… it made me shudder.

"Marlin," A sweet voice called from behind me. I felt my breath catch in my throat, but when I whirled around, it was only Celia. "Vesta said you shouldn't be working today. You should be resting. I could make you tea, if you'd like…"

"No, Celia. I'm, uh, going into town today. Maybe catch up with Griffin at the bar." I replied coolly, just hoping that she would go away. She shrugged.

"I'll see you later, then."

Hands shoved into my pockets, I left the farm and headed for the village. I passed by Ruby, bustling about her garden, and Van, who had just opened up shop. I politely nodded at them, and pushed the door open to the bar. Griffin was scrubbing at a glass, idly chatting with Rock, who sat at the bar. They both greeted me with odd smiles.

"Hey, Marlin. How ya feelin'?" Rock asked me, patting the chair next to him. I sat and shrugged.

"I'm okay."

They both nodded, almost knowingly, and went back to chatting about a place called Flower Bud Village. We shipped seeds often to the florist in that town, Liz. Griffin spoke about longing to visit, seeing as his uncle worked at the bar there. Rock didn't seem too interested.

I rested my head against my hand and let out a breath just as the door opened. I whirled my chair around to see Jill. She smiled weakly when she saw me, but I didn't return the grin. Instead, I stood and motioned her to follow me outside. Rock and Griffin stared at us peculiarly as we left.

"Are you afraid of me, or something?" I asked in a mildly angry tone once we arrived outside. She stared at the ground intently, refusing to look into my eyes.

"No, it's not that at all." She began softly, her voice shaking slightly. "It's just… I didn't know what to do. I don't know how to handle it all."

I felt my face tighten and my chest heave. Her words stung.

"I understand, I guess. Does that mean you don't…?"

I couldn't finish the sentence. It pained me to think about that possibility.

"No! Oh, heavens, no!" She exclaimed fervently. "Marlin, I love you. I'm not going to call off the wedding because of this."

I sighed in relief, feeling my chest unclench itself.

"It's just that, well, I get anxious. And have panic attacks, because I don't know what to do, and I'm not in control. I guess it does frighten me a little, but I am always here for you…" She said very quietly. I reached forward, smiling slightly, and placed my hand behind her neck and pulled her towards me gently. She smiled a bright smile.

"Thank you for sticking by me."

With that, I leaned in to kiss her smiling mouth. She slowly wrapped her arms around my neck and leaned against my body. It made me feel like everything was going to be okay. And it made me feel at home.

After the make-up, the day was spent together. And in the blink of an eye, it was time.

I heard the wedding bells clanging beautifully against each other as I stood at the end of the bridge. Everyone in the village gathered around the area, all dressed in black and white, smiling cheerfully at me. And that's when I saw her.

Her hair was not in a ponytail like usual, but it was down, and fell gracefully passed her shoulders. It was curled to perfection. Her bright eyes were glazed with tears as she began her walk towards me. The dress she wore was the traditional wedding dress of Forget-Me-Not Valley, sewn by Ruby. It was a blinding white, and it fell just to her ankles. A simple ribbon was tied around her ribs, and light blue forget-me-nots were woven in her hair. I couldn't help but grin goofily.

Her small heels clopped against the wooden bridge to the beat of my pumping heart. And finally, she was right next to me. I reached for her hand timorously.

"We are gathered here to unite Marlin and Jill in marriage, which is held in honor among all people." The priest began.

"Love is one of the greatest of life's experiences. It brings meaning and happiness to our lives. To freely accept from and give to each other as lovers and friends in life's joys."

I smiled openly and she smiled back, blushing profusely. A small tear glided down her face and I reached to brush it away just like I had that day.

"Marlin, will you have this woman to be your wife, in all love and honor, in all faith and tenderness, to live with her and cherish her in this bond of marriage? If so, please answer I will."

"I will." I spoke with confidence. This caused more tears to pour down Jill's face gracefully.

"And Jill, will you have this man to be your husband, in all love and honor, in all faith and tenderness, to live with him and cherish him in this bond of marriage? If so, please answer I will."

"I will." She said very softly, smiling as she did so. I could feel my own tears welling up in my eyes when she said this, but I blinked them away.

"Repeat after me. I, Marlin, take Jill to be my wedded wife, and I do promise before these witnesses, to be thy loving and faithful husband in plenty and want, in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and health as long as we both shall live."

I repeated this clearly and confidently, feeling a sense of overwhelming joy build up inside me. The priest then turned to Jill, who now had a few more tears rolling down her face, and asked her to repeat the same.

"I, Jill, take Marlin to be my wedded husband, and I do promise before these witnesses," She stopped for a second, regaining her composure as more tears fell.

"… to be thy loving and faithful wife in plenty and want, in joy and in sorrow,"

Again, she closed her eyes and wiped a tear away.

"…I-in sickness and in health," Her voice cracked hesitantly.

"As long as we both shall live." She finished painfully, her voice wavering.

"By the powers vested in me, I present to all of the citizens in Forget-Me-Not Valley, the newly wedded couple. You may now kiss the bride."

I turned to my new wife and cupped her face in mine delicately. I kissed her tenderly as she wrapped her arms around my waist. I became lost in everything. The sweetness of her mouth, the intoxicating smell of the forget-me-nots in her hair, the overall magnificence of the wedding. The town's cheering brought me back to life. I pulled away, blushing slightly, and we walked hand in hand onto the bridge and passed the ecstatic crowd.

The only one not cheering was Celia. Her eyes were big and red; I knew she had been crying. I tried my hardest to ignore that fact, and we kept walking until we reached the farm.

And thus began our new life together.

A/N: I hope this was a good beginning. Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think of it! I will try to update frequently.