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Return to Sender

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The first package is innocuous, wrapped in brown paper with Tsukishima's name printed neatly underneath Karasuno's name and address. The only thing strange about it is that the box also has Coach Ukai's name on it, and that it gets handed to him by Takeda-sensei. It's only by chance that Tsukishima had stopped by the faculty room to pick up a book on block strategy that Takeda-sensei had tracked down for him, rather than being handed the package in front of the entire team later that day at practice.

"It came in the mail yesterday," Takeda says, pushing his glasses up his nose as Tsukishima frowned at the package. "Since Ukai-san isn't on staff, they gave it to me instead. Were you expecting anything?"

"Not really," Tsukishima says. The bell rings just then, saving Tsukishima from opening it in front of Takeda-sensei.

Later, after school and practice and dinner, when Tsukishima opens the box in the privacy of his own room, he's glad he didn't open it in front of anybody, because it turns out the box is from Kuroo Tetsurou of Nekoma. Tsukishima can't possibly imagine how he would even start to explain that to his teammates and/or coach and/or faculty advisor, since he has no idea what's going on himself.

The box contains an envelope sealed with a black cat sticker, several packages of purple sweet potato KitKats, a blob-shaped plushy that looks like it came out of a shady UFO machine, and a phone strap with a volleyball. The plushy has a grumpy-face kaomoji on the front.

Yo, Tsukishima, the letter inside the envelope reads. The handwriting is readable but just a little messy, and somehow brings to mind Kuroo's smirk and sweat-spiked hair immediately. I didn't know your address, so I sent this to your school instead. If you're reading this, it must have worked! Some of this stuff made me think of you, so I sent it. The kaomoji looks just like your face! Hope the chocolate didn't melt, that's my favorite flavor this season. You don't have those there, right? Now you have to send me something from Sendai. Miyagi omiyage, get it? HAHAHA.

"That's not funny," Tsukishima says out loud, frowning. "And that doesn't look like my face."

P.S. Tell me your address or I'll just keep sending stuff to your school. That'll be awkward, right?

Underneath the last line, Kuroo's full name and address are printed, slightly more neatly than the rest of his handwriting. Tsukishima frowns harder, reads the whole letter again, then heaves an aggravated sigh because it doesn't make any more sense than it did the first time. Why is Nekoma's captain mailing him anything? Is this some kind of prank? Sure, he'd spent most of the last training camp practicing blocking with Kuroo, but Tsukishima doesn't exactly consider them friends. He'd spent just as much time with Fukurodani's Bokuto, and Tsukishima isn't expecting to get a letter from that guy just to say "HEY HEY HEY."

Tsukishima shudders at the thought. He certainly hopes that isn't going to happen.

He has Kuroo's mail address, since the captain had insisted during training camp it was easier to track each other down that way rather than hunting across a bunch of gyms. Tsukishima could just mail Kuroo to ask what the hell is going on, or to tell him to knock it off, but somehow Tsukishima finds himself reluctant to do that. For the rest of the week, the box sits on his desk, as if daring him to do something about it every time he walks by.

Over the weekend by chance, his mother drags him along on a shopping trip to Sendai, which is how he finds himself in an omiyage stand in Sendai Station while his mother picks up some things for her friends. Without thinking very hard about what he's doing, Tsukishima buys a package of dried persimmon, zunda Pretz, and a keychain with an edamame pod hanging off of it. The soybeans peeking out have bows on them as if they are girls, and Tsukshima thinks that serves Kuroo right.

The bag is safely out of sight, tucked in his messenger bag, by the time his mother comes around the corner with her own purchases.

Sendai's famous for soybeans, Tsukishima's return letter reads. No, I haven't seen those Kit-Kats here. They were fine. That thing doesn't look like my face. I don't understand why you're mailing me anything.

He puts his own full name and address at the bottom with a sense of misgiving, but it doesn't seem like there's any choice if option 2 is that Coach Ukai or Takeda-sensei will keep getting a chance to inspect his mail. At least if they come to his house, he has a chance of intercepting a package before anyone else sees it. Maybe not a very good chance, given how late practice runs, but it's better than nothing.

Getting his own package mailed is more of a problem, since he's always at practice and school during post office hours. With the whole bundle wrapped securely in Kuro's reused brown paper, Tsukshima tells his mother that he'd accidentally taken home one of the Nekoma guy's towels in his bag, and could she mail this to Tokyo, please? She doesn't seem to think anything's odd about that request, and Tsukishima congratulates himself on his stealth and cleverness.

He's feeling much less clever when two weeks later, his mother hands him a squashy padded envelope decorated all over in shiny moon stickers.

"Left something in Tokyo yourself?" she asks with a raised eyebrow.

"Only my sanity," Tsukishima grumbles, snatching the package out of her hands and pretending his cheeks aren't turning pink.

Inside this package is a half-empty sheet of shiny moon stickers, a T-shirt which reads "Middle Blockers Do It In Your Face," and a postcard of a normal cell tower with "TOKYO TOWER" markered on the bottom of it.

Those other guys call you Tsukki, right? the letter starts without any preamble. Can I call you Tsukki too? Also, I didn't realize you were Kei like 'firefly' which is kind of stupid cute. Those Pretz were pretty good! I hear zunda mochi is amazing but you can't mail it so you should bring some next time you guys come to practice. It's a promise!

"Don't decide on your own," Tsukishima grumbles, clicking his tongue at Kuroo's smug-looking emoji.

And wear the shirt too! It's great, right? I got Bokuto one that says "Kiss my Ace" HAHAHA. I hear you like dinosaurs, so you're definitely watching Kyouryuuger. It's great, right? Way better than last year's Sentai. Do you like all dinosaurs or do you have a favorite? And you like music too, right? Your headphones are really nice so you must. What kind? Who's your favorite? I'm a shameless pop addict myself. Kenma says that's embarrassing, but it's great for running, nice and upbeat. What do you listen to when you run?

Tsukishima sits the letter down and goes to get his phone, because he's man enough to admit when he's out of his depth. He Lines Yamaguchi and tells him to just come over already without any other explanation, because the point of having a best friend is having somebody to ask what the fuck is going on sometimes. Fifteen minutes later, Tsukishima hands Yamaguchi the letter with one hand, waving with the other at the assortment of Kuroo-related items.

"Why is he mailing me things?" Tsukishima demands, as if somehow Yamaguchi will divine the answer from the I Ching of stickers and Kit-Kats littering his desk. "Why doesn't he just text or Line me like a normal teenager? Where did he even get a postcard of a transmission tower?!"

"He seemed nice enough during training camp, he helped you all that time," Yamaguchi points out, looking like he's suppressing a smile. His eyes widen a little when he reads the letter, though. "Um, maybe he wants…to be pen pals?"

"He calls my name cute! He wants to know my favorite dinosaur!" Tsukishima exclaims. "I don't understand what's going on here at all!"

Yamaguchi looks up at him, back down at the letter, and then back up again. "Are you going to mail him something back?"

"I already used up all my easy to mail hometown goods ideas," Tsukishima complains without thinking, then regrets it immediately when Yamaguchi grins.

"You did! You totally mailed him stuff already! Tsukki!" He starts laughing and Tsukishima punches him in the arm, but it only makes him laugh harder. "Okay, ow! So now you have to mail him back stuff, huh. It's only polite."

Yamaguchi gives Tsukishima an innocent grin, and Tsukishima informs him he's the worst best friend on the Japanese high school volleyball circuit.

After an afternoon at the shopping street, Tsukshima mails back a pack of gyutan-flavored gum, socks with volleyballs on them, and a cat-shaped smartphone dust plug that he got from a gatcha machine on the way home. He throws the plastic capsule into the box without even opening it to see which one he got. His letter starts with No you can't call me that and ends with Stegosaurus.