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Dear Keith

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Dear Keith,

Where to start? I guess I’ll just try to explain as best I can. To put it simply, you don’t know me. We’ve never met and that’s a good thing. Actually, you don’t even exist. You’re just a name that popped into my head. In truth, I just needed someone to talk to. Someone who wasn’t going to judge me. I got into some trouble recently and I’m not really sure how to fix it.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I need to start at the beginning so you understand. Don’t let me fool you, though. This mess is all my fault. At first it was just something to solve a minor problem but it quickly got out of hand. Before I knew it things had spiraled out of my control.

Maybe I’m hoping that by writing everything out I’ll think of a way to turn things around. Maybe I’m just trying to make myself feel less guilty. I don’t know…

Okay, no more stalling. Here’s how it started. It was the beginning of the fall semester at the university I go to…

 

-----

 

“Lance? Lance! Lance wake up!”

 

Lance stirred and pulled the covers over his head, not ready to face the day yet. He was warm and getting up meant being cold. Lance was not okay with that.

 

“Lance, if you don’t get up now you won’t have enough time to get ready.”

 

Lance shot up. “What time is it?”

 

He heard Hunk sigh from across the room. “Six thirty.”

 

“What?” Lance threw the covers off and rushed to the bathroom connected to their dorm room, yelling at Hunk as he went. “I told you to wake me up at six!”

 

“I did.” Came Hunk’s reply. He sounded unconcerned, having dealt with Lance all of last year. “You opened your eyes, flipped me off, and then went back to sleep.”

 

“Impossible! It’s too important a day for me to do that!” Lance yelled at Hunk  from the bathroom. He was in the process of hastily going through his morning skincare routine.

 

“I knew you’d say that so I recorded it for proof. This isn’t my first rodeo, Lance.” Hunk replied. “I don’t really understand why you’re so worked up. It’s just the first day of classes.”

 

“Exactly!” Lance said, popping his head out of the bathroom, pointing his toothbrush at Hunk. “You know what they say about first impressions.”

 

Hunk sighed and Lance ducked back into the bathroom. “Alright, man. Whatever works for you.”

 

Lance was like a tornado through his and Hunk’s small dorm room as he got ready. When seven thirty rolled around he and Hunk left the dorm. Lance was confident that he looked perfect. He was positive he was going to be the best looking guy in all of his classes today. Just the way he liked it.

 

Pidge was waiting for them outside their dorm building looking like they hadn’t slept a wink last night.

 

“You look like shit.” Lance said casually.

 

“I’m sorry, Lance.” Pidge said looking down at their clothes. “I didn’t mean to match you today.”

 

“Oh! Good one, Pidge!” Hunk said, holding out his fist towards Pidge. Pidge bumped it with their own, a victorious smile on their face.

 

“Ha. Ha.” Lance said sarcastically. “Shouldn’t we be getting to class?” He didn’t wait for their answer but turned and started walking towards their first class of the day.

 

“Whose idea was it to take a class that started at eight in the fucking morning?” Pidge asked, a few steps behind Lance.

 

“Lance’s.” Hunk said bluntly, completely throwing Lance under the bus.

 

“Lance!” Pidge yelled.

 

“Hey, it was the only available time!” Lance said defensively. “And it’s a required course.”

 

“Yeah, I’m still going to blame you.” Pidge said plainly and then yawned.

 

Lance shrugged. “It’s not like that’s going to change the fact you still have to go to it.”

 

“Still makes me feel better though.” Pidge replied smoothly.

 

Lance and Pidge’s banter continued back and forth with Hunk occasionally chiming in all the way to their first class. It was some sort of writing class. Lance didn’t really care for writing too much; he’d never been very good at it. But if he was taking it with Pidge and Hunk then he was sure that he’d find it an entertaining class.

 

As the trio took their seats in the back of the classroom, Lance noticed that the other students sitting in the room looked as tired as Pidge did. Lance smirked to himself as he realized that yet again he blew every other guy out of the water. Mission accomplished.

 

“Did you ever finish that project?” Lance heard Hunk ask Pidge.

 

“Not yet.” Pidge replied. “I’ve hit a rough patch with it. It’s become more of a headache then something I actually want to work on.”

 

“Project?” Lance asked. “What project?”

 

“Pidge is trying to develop an AI.” Hunk answered.

 

“A VI.” Pidge corrected. “I think an AI is a little above my skill level right now.”

 

“A VI?” Lance asked.

 

“Virtual Intelligence.” Pidge explained. “It’s not quite as sophisticated as an AI. It can’t reason and adapt to its surroundings like an AI would.”

 

“Then what's it good for?” Lance asked.

 

“Mostly just to process data and provide information about something.” Hunk said.

 

“Which would be useful to me if I could get it to do either of those things.” Pidge said irritably.

 

Lance was going to ask another question but the professor called the class to attention and started passing out the syllabus.

 

-----

 

...as you can see it started out just like any other school year. Everything was normal. Pidge was working on a weird science project, Hunk was being the supportive friend, and I? Well, I was just trying to be the brightest one in the room.

I had been so sure that it was going to be a normal school year. I was so wrong. -Lance

 

-----

 

Keith finished reading the strange letter and didn’t know what to think. Who was Lance? Pidge? Hunk? What did he mean that Keith didn’t exist?

 

Keith grabbed the envelope the letter had come in. It had come with no return address. In fact, there was no address at all. The only thing written on it was “ Keith ”. There wasn’t even a stamp. Was Shiro pranking him? That didn’t sound like Shiro.

 

Speaking of Shiro Keith heard the door to his apartment open. “Keith?”

 

Keith shoved the letter under the pillow on his bed. He’d figure it out later. He left his room and went to meet Shiro.

 

Shiro was standing in the front room of the apartment they shared. “What’s up?” Keith asked him.

 

“If you don’t leave soon you’re going to be late.” Shiro said, giving him a stern look.

 

“It’s been two months since school started.” Keith pointed out. “When are you going to trust me to get to class on time?”

 

“When you leave this apartment on time.” Shiro replied.

 

“Okay, Dad, I’m leaving.” Keith said, rolling his eyes and grabbing his keys, backpack, and helmet before heading for the door.

 

“I’m not your dad.” Shiro called after him.

 

“Could’ve fooled me!” Keith called back before closing the door. He was going to hear about that one later. In truth, Shiro was Keith’s adoptive brother. Keith had been adopted by Shiro’s family about ten years ago. Keith immediately grew attached to Shiro, having found the older brother he had always wanted. When Keith had decided to attend university, Shiro had decided to move with Keith, claiming that he had to keep an eye on him. Keith suspected that the real reason was so Shiro could live closer to his girlfriend, but he’d never tell Shiro that.

 

Keith made his way out to the parking lot behind their apartment building, heading to his bike that Shiro had bought him when they first moved in. As Keith approached his bike he donned his helmet, feeling the adrenaline start to pump through his veins. The ten minute ride to and from the university was Keith’s favorite part of the day. He swung his leg over the bike and kicked the engine to life. Keith smiled to himself as he sped off towards the university.

 

As always he arrived at the university too quickly and parked his bike, hanging his helmet off of one of the handlebars. He shook his head a little and ran his fingers through his hair a few times, trying to unmat it. Then he sighed and headed towards his first class.

 

Keith was an art major and his first class of the day was art history. It wasn’t his favorite class so he usually just spent most of it sketching in the sketchbook he took everywhere with him. Today was different though. He felt off as he headed to his first class. His mind kept going back to that bizarre letter he had received.

 

If he was honest, he was a little weirded out by it. Who was this Lance that was writing him? He’d never met anyone named Lance. He was also curious to see what this Lance did that was so terrible. It had sounded bad.

 

Keith arrived at his class and took his usual seat in the back. He set his bag down next to him and unzipped it to retrieve his sketchbook and pencil case. He flipped the book open and grabbed a pencil from his case.

 

The letter still on his mind, he decided to draw a scene from it. He didn’t actually know what they looked like so he just made it up as he went. He drew a large guy with longer hair and some sort of cloth tied around his forehead. Keith decided this was Hunk, it just had to be. Walking next to Hunk was a smaller figure with wild hair and glasses. He made sure to give it bags under its eyes. This was Pidge Keith figured. Walking a little in front of Hunk and Pidge he drew a tall, slender figure. He gave the figure short hair and a smug look on its face. This was without a doubt Lance. Keith had a feeling that if he and Lance met in real life they wouldn’t get along very well. He quickly added a background, mirroring the scenery off his own university. In the corner of the paper he quickly put his signature like he always did.

 

Satisfied with sketch Keith went fishing in his pencil case for the colors that would fit their personalities. Yellow for Hunk, green for Pidge, and blue for Lance. Ignoring the professor that had started class, Keith colored in the sketch from that weird letter he had gotten earlier that morning.

 

-----

 

Lance returned to his empty dorm, feeling more lost than he’d ever had before. Writing that letter had made him feel better for a little bit but now he just felt tired and lonely. Lance threw his bag on his bed, expecting to hear the sound of fabric on fabric. What he got instead was the sound of paper crunching.

 

Confused, Lance went to pick his bag back up. When he did he found a piece of sketchbook paper, slightly crinkled from where Lance’s bag had landed on it. Lance picked it up and flipped it over and his eyes immediately went wide.

 

He stared in partial horror and partial wonder at the picture drawn out. It was Hunk, Pidge, and himself on their way to class. Lance had described this moment earlier today when he had written that letter.

 

Sketch still in hand Lance went to his desk drawer and pulled it open. He grabbed the envelope with “ Keith ” written on it from where he had placed it that morning and examined it. It was still sealed and it felt like the letter was still inside.

 

Lance didn’t understand. Who had drawn this? Lance looked back at the sketch and something in the corner caught his eyes. In small but neat letters was a name:

 

Keith K.