Hello there! Usually I like to finish one story before starting another, but I've had some writer's block on my story in another fandom and I thought I'd get this out to you now. It's going to be an action/adventure story. It's also my first TMNT AU! Let's see how this turns out :)
Ever since he was four years old, Leo dreamed of his father coming home. His dreams were almost like the fairy tales Mother used to tell them when she was still alive, except this one hadn't come true yet. Each day as he scrubbed the pots and pans and cleaned out the stables and tended the palace fires, he thought of what his father would say.
"I am ashamed of you, brother," his dad would always say in his daydreams, "You have forgotten your promise." And then maybe his father and uncle would duel and his father would win, or perhaps his uncle would realize what he had done and beg forgiveness, and sometimes Leo himself was the one to duel his uncle. He never killed him, he didn't think he had the heart to do that, but whenever they 'dueled' he always won with one of the sword tricks his father had taught him, and then his uncle would apologize.
But those were just daydreams. His father was supposed to come home years ago, and it was more than likely that he had been killed on his journey. In the meantime, Leo was used to the life of a servant, and anyway if he told anyone his heritage they wouldn't believe him. His uncle would, of course. His uncle knew who he was and where he came from, but Leo was certain that it would be dangerous to let him know that he remembered. He was only alive right now because his uncle still had some small sense of duty.
"I promise to look after them, my brother." He had heard his uncle say on the day their father left, "I will treat them as my own sons."
But for Leo, the promise had been broken. His uncle was the one who put him where he was, placed even lower than scullery maid. The only reason his uncle had not killed him outright was because of that promise, and yet, his uncle was the one who ordered that he always be "kept busy" amid unsanitary conditions. It was only Leo's own resolve that had kept him alive this long.
And the reason for that resolve was his brothers. Brothers who no longer remembered him.
His uncle might have tossed him out of the family's immediate circle, but Leo suspected that was only because he was the oldest. Without Leo, their uncle would be permanent custodian over his brothers. He was effectively king of the castle. So Leo was fairly certain that his brothers wouldn't be harmed as long as they didn't become a threat to their uncle.
His brothers had cried as he had when he was forced to leave them, but they cried because they thought he was dead. As the years passed he watched over them as best as he could, and he witnessed that they seemed happy. He didn't envy them their happiness, but he was always on the lookout for them in case their uncle betrayed them as he had betrayed Leo and their father.
And that betrayal ran deep. Everything he had, had been taken away from him by his uncle. He didn't even have a real name anymore.
"Dirty, grab the fattest chicken in the henhouse and butcher it for the Steward's dinner. And be quick about it!"
"Soot-face, clean the yard. Make every acre presentable."
"The cellar is dirty, boy, and none of the servants want to clean it. The idiots think it's haunted. You've got one hour."
"I swear, Lazybones, you get slower every day. The next time I lend you out to plow some farmer's field, I expect you to finish the entire field in one day! The oxen do it just fine, why can't you?"
When he reached a certain age, Leo decided to stop daydreaming that his father would return. But it seemed that he couldn't. He just couldn't give up hope that easily, no matter how ridiculous a hope it was. Dying men clutch at straws, and Leonardo clutched at his dreams.
In the meantime, he resolved more and more fiercely to look after his brothers-brothers who were so near, yet so far away, and so very much in danger.
There was Raphael, the hothead who tried to act tough but was frightened of responsibility. If he ever got in a fight with their uncle, Leo needed to be the first to know. Then there was Donatello, the genius who might one day realize that their uncle was usurping their rights. And then there was Michelangelo, the trusting child who held a feast every year on the occasion of Leonardo's "death". He would be the easiest for their uncle to corrupt.
For the moment, his uncle was satisfied and his brothers were safe. The boys were given anything they wanted, and they hardly ever had to lift a finger. As for Leonardo, he continued his work with gusto, doing whatever he was told to do without question. He needed to keep up his resolve, and force himself to stay in good health. He wasn't doing it for himself, he was doing it for his brothers in case they needed him. And perhaps even now they needed him, although they didn't know it. There were many things he could do as a servant to make them more comfortable.
"The fires are dying," one of the servants told him on a cold night, handing him the key to the bedrooms, "Take care of it. I have been informed by Steward Oroku Saki that Prince Donatello has a cold."
Yes. All the hard labor he was doing and the secrets he was keeping, he was doing it all for his brothers.