Traveling across the world, sometimes going weeks without any sign of civilization, Jack became accustomed to eating whatever he could find.
Sometimes that meant roots, dug up from the dirt that would lodge itself in his fingernails. Other times it was some strange, tiny, crawling beast that had made its home on Earth after migrating from across the stars.
He had to watch the local wildlife carefully to see what they ate and what they didn’t in order to keep from poisoning himself. Most of his survival training became useless and outdated after he was flung into a world of extra-terrestrial invasive species, so sometimes he ate something that would make his skin break out in a rash or leave him retching all night. Still, he was learning.
Food was scarce more often than not. A dangerous pattern for one who exerted energy in fighting all day. On those days he would rest, conserve his strength and steel his spirit against the challenges to come.
A bent old woman gently tapped Jack on the shoulder. The samurai looked up silently.
“…You’re the man that saved my daughter’s life,” the woman said, her face not betraying the emotion that flooded her voice. “Come on son, I’ll have you at my house for dinner tonight. You can sleep in the extra bedroom. I won’t take no for an answer now, Mr. Samurai.”
His hair had grown quite a bit longer since his arrival in the future. At night when Jack let it down, he could feel the extra inches trail down his back. He’d thought about cutting it, but a part of him enjoyed it. He enjoyed pulling out the tangles with his fingers in the morning, and he enjoyed how he looked when his hair spilled out of its top knot.
Shaving had been a bit of a problem at first. He hadn’t thought to find a razor until the first day he noticed the stubble growing on his chin. He considered using his sword but decided it was a disrespectful idea. Still, any other bladed weapon he carried was fair game.
The invention of the shower was something Jack found fascinating, but he mostly had access to natural water only. Sometimes this created an awkward situation as locals passed by and discovered him.
“I see the real sword is just as big as I thought!” one girl whistled, elbowing her giggling friends.
“Baby you can sheathe that thing in me any day,” another hummed happily, making a suggestive gesture.
Jack blushed and dove underwater as the girls giggled and called out to him. While Jack could hold his breath for a long time, he found it was not long enough to escape his audience. The girls ended up relenting once they saw how shy the samurai was, and by way of apology dried and braided his hair.
One family invited Jack to stay with them after he saved their town from bandits, and the youngest daughter insisted on playing makeover with Jack. He happily let her paint his nails and apply all kinds of makeup. A month after that day he found himself buying eyeliner, which he rarely…but sometimes used.
“He doesn’t have a job or anything, right?” the chef asked.
“Nah, unless people are paying him to fight robots,” the busboy replied. “And I think accepting payment for that would be like, against his code, or something.”
Business was slow that day, so the two staff members found themselves with plenty of time to talk. A ceiling fan creaked overhead, and the sizzle of burgers on the grill filled the room with greasy smoke.
“Maybe he robs the baddies he kills?” the chef suggested.
“He doesn’t kill people, just robots, and robots ain’t got no money.” The busboy moved from table to table picking up glasses.
“Well he’s some kind of prince right? Could he have a trust fund?”
“Aku would never let him,” the busboy said.
The door to the restaurant swung open, and the chatting pair paid the new customer no mind.
“Well what if it was hidden?”
“What like buried treasure? That’s dumb.”
“Could I have a water, please?” the customer asked, and the chef slide him a glass along with a dismissive gesture.
“Well then what’s your explanation Mr. Smartypants?” the chef flipped a burger and scoffed.
“I don’t got one!” the busboy said. “I’m just saying it can’t be buried treasure!”
“Thank you,” the customer said, placing his empty glass in the busboy’s dish holder.
“Yeah, yeah, have a nice day,” the busboy waved him away.
The customer stepped back outside into the afternoon heat and waved to the car that had pulled up to him.
“Thank you again for helping on such short notice,” the man said. “I’ve been needing someone to weed the garden for weeks now! I’d thought I could get some teenager to do it but you know kids today, they think they’re above some manual labor.”
Jack gave a polite, if disagreeing, smile to the man and got in the car to start a day of work.
“You seem lonely.”
Jack had been staring out the window at the rain, warming his hands around a hot cup of tea, when the voice broke into his thoughts. There was a man standing next to his table, still dripping from the rain. He was tall and thin with blonde hair pulled back into a ponytail and a smile he was directing Jack’s way.
“Ah…I’m sorry?” Jack asked.
“A pretty face like yours shouldn’t be frowning like that.” The man gestured towards the other chair with a questioning gaze. Jack nodded, giving him permission to sit. “So, what’s the sad occasion, beautiful?” the man asked, staring into Jack’s eyes.
“It’s just…” Jack looked back out the window. “…I am a long way from home, and have been for some time. I suppose it is taking a toll on me.”
“I’m sorry to hear it.” The man rested his chin on his hand, never taking his eyes off Jack. “You know, if you need some company, I could buy you another drink and we could talk for awhile?”
Jack gave the man a confused look. He was unaware of the man’s flirtatious intention, and therefore was puzzled by his offer. “You are most kind but that is unnecessary.”
“Okay,” the man said. “But, is there anything else I could do to make you feel better? I mean it when I say I hate to see you frown.” The man reached over the table and gently placed his hand over Jack’s.
Jack was not unfamiliar with same sex relationships. Even in his time, when it was more hidden, he had learned of them. And in this time they were more open. Jack had realized long ago that men and women both appealed to him, but he had also decided not to take a lover in a time he had to leave.
Once, he had trusted a woman…
But no, that had been a trick.
Jack pulled his hand away as if it had been burned. The man looked concerned and pulled away as well. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.”
“No, no, it is not your fault,” Jack apologized. “I…I am sorry, I have not had the best of luck with…this as of late.”
“Well…I can leave you alone if you prefer,” the man said. “…and if you prefer something else…that offer for a drink stands.”
The man smiled at Jack one last time before getting up and heading over to the bar. Jack watched him go, drinking the last of his tea. He looked into the empty cup, and then back at the man that has just offered him a drink.