When he was abducted he was weak, pale, scrawny, with more gristle than muscle. They had lifted him from the street, sat right there with his hand out on the pavement, ignored by most with just a few coins to show for it. They crumpled five pounds into his hand and led him away.
It was the first proper bed he slept in since he left home. The stinky cots in the Sally Army hall didn’t count as a proper bed, even if they were a hundred times better than a damp cardboard box in a lane. Proper beds had a mattress and pillows and sheets and one of those duvets. There was one on his bed the day he left, speckled with his own blood. By then there usually weren’t any blood speckles, but that last time had been particularly vicious.
He mostly ate scraps he found in bins, sometimes soup and a sandwich if the van came round. His stomach took days to accept ordinary food without making him vomit or sending brown streaks down his legs. But they provided hot baths, clean clothes and small portions until his body acclimatized again. Everything tasted like the first time.
In a few weeks he began to enjoy sitting outside with the sun on his face. He never wanted to sit once it got darker and was shy of the rain and wind in his hair. He watched water hit the windows like it was aversion therapy. Rain isn’t wet from indoors.
He never talked about it and they never asked, but they knew. They knew because they had been him and in time, he would become them. They helped him learn acceptance of what had been and what must come to follow.
When he was strong, both in mind and body, when he was fully equipped and when he no longer looked like he did then, they took him back home. They waited while he did it then they took him back.
And they provided a hot bath and clean clothes so he could wash off the speckles of blood where he had been particularly vicious.