Jake hummed to himself as he collected the eggs Sandwich and Nugget had laid overnight, setting the little basket beside the gate so he could grab them when he went back to the house.

His garden hadn't produced anything else yet, so all he had to do now was leave the eggs in his bar fridge. Then he could go to Ronald's and start his normal schedules. Feed the chickens an tidy up the coop. Then it would be off to Bob's to take care of the animals: milking the cows, grooming the horses and the cows, then clean out the stable and put fresh hay in the mangers. Bob would ensure the water troughs were full and help if Jake needed it. Otherwise, he'd be in his shop.

Then...well Jake usually stayed around to learn what he could about animals. Nugget and Sandwich were fairly low maintenance, but if Jake wanted to buy a cow or properly take care of the grey gelding, then he would need to know much more.

After that...it was hard to say. Sometimes he would walk past the church to sit with his feet in the river that fed into the Goddess Spring. With nothing but the quiet sounds of the water and the breeze in the trees, Jake could think. Sometimes, Jake would stop back off at Ronald's again if he needed groceries, or if Ronald had invited him over.

Jake shook himself from his thoughts. Depending on how he felt after finishing up at Bob's, he'd figure out what he would do with the rest of his day. No point standing around and wasting daylight.

When Jake made it to Ronald's, he knocked on the door as he opened it a touch. Ronald, however, was awake and already bustling behind the counter.

"Is that you, Jake?" Ronald asked without turning around, grunting audibly as he reached into the back of one of his oven, presumably to clean it. "Chicken feed is beside the door. If...if you're not Jake, come on in. I'll be with you in a minute."

Jake snorted, "Don't worry, it's just me. I'll be back as soon as I'm done."

Ronald laughed, "Hopefully I'm done this before you. Good luck, Henrietta pecked me last night, so be warned."

"Thanks," Jake looked around, and spotted the chicken feed, "Have fun!"

Ronald laughed as Jake left the shop and stepped toward the chicken coop. Jake carefully opened the door, keeping his foot ready in case any of the chickens tried to escape. None did this time, and Jake muttered quietly as he shuffled his way through the excited flock of hungry birds.

"Yeah, yeah. Get out of the way, Goldman! Don't want to step on a bird. Scoot, scoot," Jake reached the feed boxes, and started pouring the feed in as the chickens flapped about excitedly. After they were fed, the chickens calmed down and pecked happily at their food.

Jake set the food bag beside the door, and collected the eggs in his shirt. Holding his shirt like one large pocket with one hand, and holding the food bag with the other, Jake made his way back to Ronald. He left the bag outside so he could open the door, and carefully entered the shop. He didn't want to be covered in egg for the day.

Ronald was still behind the counter and he was thankfully upright, though he was trying to stretch out his back. "Oh! Here," Ronald rummaged underneath the counter, and pulled out an empty egg carton.

Jake put the eggs into the carton, then wiped off his shirt, "None of the eggs were totally covered in shit this time."

Ronald chuckled, "That helps, doesn't it?"

"Didn't clean the coop. I'll be back."

Before Ronald could say anything else, Jake had left. Ronald sighed, closing the lid on the carton and putting it into the fridge.

Jake wheeled the wheelbarrow through the side door, thankful the chickens were afraid of the squeaking wheel, and were pressed against the front door. Stepping over the wheelbarrow handles, Jake grabbed the pitchfork and got to work. Since he'd been cleaning out the coop every day, it didn't take long to remove the dirty straw and replace it with fresh. Jake emptied the waste into Ronald's compost pile, then put the wheelbarrow back.

Jake leaned against the building for a moment, allowing himself a quiet moment to rest. The work wasn't hard, not really. Jake was just tired. He was usually tired, but that was fine. Jake straightened, steadied himself, then went inside.

"Are you hungry? I can-"

Jake smiled, "I'm okay, thanks. The girls have been taken care of, so if you don't mind I should head over to Bob's now."

"I still owe you-"

"Can I get it tomorrow? I need to...um...buy some extra equipment tomorrow. You owe me 250 today, right? I trust you with it. See you later, have a good day!" With that, Jake stepped back outside.

Holding the bag of coins, staring at the closed door, Ronald sighed. He stashed the coins away, and got back to work. Let's hope he hasn't gotten himself in trouble.

Jake walked to Bob's ranch, enjoying the early-morning quiet. Making it to Starling Ranch, Jake walked past the shop, and toward the practice racetrack and the barn. Bob was outside, checking the horses and cows, humming jovially to himself.

Jake smiled at the sight. For such a large, intimidating man, Bob was a natural carer. He cared for his animals, for his stock, and for Tim with a tenderness few would expect from a man that looked like Bob.

"Hey, kid!" Bob straightened from his crouched position beside the chestnut gelding, "You're here early."

Jake shrugged, "Ronald's didn't take long today. Henrietta behaved."

Bob chuckled, "A miracle to be sure. C'mon, if you finish quickly enough I can teach you how to check a horse's leg for injuries and stuff, okay? I still have to check the troughs, so you still have some time."

Jake smiled forcefully, "Okay. I'll be as quick as I can."

"100 gold extra if you can get everything done before I have to get Tim up for school."

"Deal!" With that, Jake ran into the barn, barely shutting the door behind him.

Bob chuckled, then turned his attention to the paddock. There was work to be done.

(LINE BREAK)

Bob was just finishing checking the perimeter of his fencing when he heard Jake coughing. It sounded hard, and painful, and Bob still didn't know what to make of it.

Ever since Jake had come to Leaf Valley, he'd had a bit of a cough. For the first month, it hadn't really registered. Bob had honestly just assumed Jake had mild asthma, or maybe allergies, until he'd asked Jake what it was about. Jake had chuckled nervously, adjusting his hat, and had said no. There were no allergies, no asthma, nothing obvious as a cause of the cough.

Bob made his way toward the barn, and his amble turned into a flat-out sprint when he saw Jake collapsed against the fence, on his hands and knees, coughing harshly. Nuin, the white gelding, was at the fence, pacing restlessly. The other animals were also upset looking, shifting their weight and eyes rolling. They knew something was wrong.

Bob fell to his knees beside Jake, who was finally starting to catch his breath, "Goddess, kid! You okay!?"

Jake struggled for a deep breath, one hand curled tightly in the grass and the other scrabbling in the dirt of the track. Shoulders heaving, Jake nodded, "Yeah…. yeah I'm..I'm okay." His voice sounded like he'd swallowed nails.

"No, you're not! What was that!?"

"I-I think maybe I might have asthma...or allergies." Jake swallowed, shifting so his back was pressed against the solid fence-post.

"There's a doctor over in Mineral Town, do you need a ride? I can hook up the carriage-"

Jake shook his head, his breathing finally evening out, "No, no I'm okay. Really. I-I think I'm going to go home. I have a phone and a phone book; I'll book an appointment with the doctor later."

"You sure?" Bob offered a hand to help Jake get himself upright again. Jake took it, and held on for a few seconds as he swayed.

"Yeah. I'll be okay." Jake took his hand away, and stood motionless for a moment, then sighed in relief when he didn't fall over, "Do you want me to call when I get home?"

"As if I'm letting you go home by yourself. If you want to stay outside, I'll put a sign up saying I'll be back. Tim doesn't need to be up for another half an hour, that's plenty of time for me to get you home and then come back here. C'mon."

Begrudgingly, Jake followed Bob back to the shop, and waited outside while Bob wrote on a piece of paper and taped it to the door, shutting it firmly. Hands in his pockets, Jake fell into step beside Bob as they made their way toward Golden Farm.

"What set you off,do you think?" Bob asked, rubbing the back of his head with a large hand.

Jake shrugged, "The hay dust, maybe."

"You were outside."

Jake shrugged again, "I was putting hay out. Wind blew the right way, got a lungful."

Bob nodded his head in agreement. Goddess knew that had happened to him often enough. Hay was one of the only truly miserable things about the job: it was dusty, and it got everywhere no matter what you did. Everyone helping with hay during the summer usually suffered at least one major coughing fit after inhaling too much hay dust.

"Fair enough," Bob waved to Louis who was standing under a tree and staring down at some ants nearby. Louis waved back, Jake looked uncomfortable but nodded. Louis's smile dimmed a little, but he nodded back.

"Still don't talk to anyone, huh?"

Jake shrugged, "Tried it once, Gwen yelled at me."

"To be fair you ran headlong into her first."

"Then I offered to help her up, said sorry, and introduced myself," Jake bit back, "Not my fault she doesn't like me."

Bob looked down at Jake, surprised to hear anything but resignation in his voice, "You really don't like her, do you?"

Jake turned the final corner before stepping onto the dirt path toward his farm. Apparently his grandfather had never paid to put cobblestones down. Jake shrugged, "She doesn't like me much."

Bob chuckled, "She doesn't like anyone much."

"She likes you fine. Guess her problem is just with people who weren't born here."

"She's just upset about Funland. All of us are."

"Then why haven't you done anything?"

"What do you mean?"

"Have you asked Alice or her minions what they'd take in return for the deed? You guys have had a year or two right?"

"Well, we did but it's fifty-thousand gold pieces. All of us are trying our own things in order to keep those Funland bastards from taking our land, but they're...what did Woody call them? 'Crafty bastards' I think. We all have our own interests, so we all have our own ways of getting things done."

Jake nodded slowly, "Hm. First I've heard of it."

Bob shrugged, "Gwen and I are focusing on winning the final horse race of the year. If we win, we have to hold the next year's races. It's better than nothing, and unless Funland wins, we have to keep the track the way it is now. I think Gwen thought she saw some rare animal that she's trying to track down. Don't really know what else is going on."

Jake sighed, seeing his shed in the distance, "I'm okay now, you know. You have Tim to look after."

"I'm walking you to your door, so don't argue anymore. It'll be fine. I've been gone for maybe ten minutes. It's fine."

Jake snorted, adjusting his hat, "I'm fine. This is pointless."

"You were on the ground. Not leaving you by yourself until I know you're home. Also, I'm calling you tonight to make sure you're alive."

Jake rolled his eyes, "Fine. If I don't pick up I'm probably asleep."

"If you don't pick up I'm calling Ronald and we're coming over."

Jake chuckled, the sound rasping harshly in his throat. Jake coughed twice, apparently to clear his throat, his shoulders shaking with amusement, "Meh. I'm fine."

"Mmhmm. Right."

Jake shrugged, passing the shed and standing in front of his house, "Do you want me to step inside now?"

"If you could. I know the door is tricky."

Jake sighed, exasperated, "I've got it now, there's a trick. You just gotta push the door as you turn the door handle. See?" Jake demonstrated the trick, and the wooden door creaked open.

Bob looked at the sturdy, but clearly ill-taken care of house and sighed, "You sure you're fine?"

"I'm sure. Thanks," Jake offered a small smile, then entered his house.

Bob stood outside for a second, before turning back to look at the once fallow field, to see a flourishing garden. Bob sighed and made his way back home. After he got Tim ready, and finished his chores, he'd call Ronald to make sure Ronald knew what was going on.

Hopefully, it would be nothing.