Here’s the beginning of The Rugby Giant, a tale of yaoi MM lust about one lucky gay and the massive Polynesian jock who comes to love him!
Lyle sighed. He didn’t think it was going to be this difficult. He almost hadn’t come here today, and he shuddered to think what would have happened if he didn’t. Most likely Robby would have said it was good enough and they’d have unusable footage. It would have been a costly disaster.
On the other hand, Lyle thought, maybe that would have been better. He hadn’t gotten any usable footage of Tavita his way either. At least Robby wouldn’t have had to push the entire crew into overtime to get the useless coverage of Tavita mumbling his line.
Tavita Tohi was a prop on the Wichita Warriors professional rugby team. A prop is a position, usually the largest couple of players on a team, focused on hitting hard during scrums and rucks. He was seven feet tall and he was so big he had needed his rugby shirt to be custom-made. All of his clothes, in fact, were custom-made here in the States — back in his homeland, the Pacific island nation of Tonga, large clothes were more common, as were handmade clothes.
He was not just tall and big, with shoulders like patio furniture, he had a thick mop of curly black hair that was perpetually tangled and slick. His face was squarish, giving him an ogre-like quality, but he had a handsome noble jaw and big round eyes like a naive farmboy.
“Because it is r-r-r-rugby night in Wichita.”
“Because it is rugby night in. In… Wichita.”
“Because it’s… uh… it’s rugby night… in Wichita.”
Somehow Tavita sounded like a fake Hollywood Polynesian even though he was real. He was stiff and forced and awkward; he mumbled in all the wrong ways; he looked shy and scared rather than macho and confident. He said Wichita in a way that had made Lyle laugh the first few times he heard it. Weecheehta, spoken like the word was a costly heirloom that might break if Tavita said it out loud carelessly.
It was also funny — in a frustrating, non-humorous way — that Tavita couldn’t manage to say this one line. That’s because he was huge and scary, which was precisely the look Lyle wanted. This commercial was meant to appeal to tough guys (or men who wanted to see themselves as tough guys): the “shadowy swarthy exotic foreigner meanly barking out a vague slogan” was a perfect look, which was Tavita’s normal look. Tavita didn’t need to act, he just needed to say one line in an uninterrupted way that was totally normal for him.
Everybody else on the team had managed to give their line. Most athletes aren’t good performers, so a lot of it was rather wooden and forced, but Lyle had come to expect that. That was why they each only had a few words. Lyle could take the best take from each of them, and splice them all together into a professional-looking commercial.
But Tavita was weird and off-putting, especially when there was a camera on him. That was one of the things that had gotten him famous — when he scored the winning goal in last years American Rugby Cup, ESPN asked him how he felt, and he thought for a long time before saying only “fine”.
“Tavita, do you miss Tonga? What do you think of America?”
“It is okay. I like Tonga. There is no sea in Wichita.”
“Tavita, what’s your workout regiment like?”
“I like to exercise,” he said. “I am very big.”
“Tavita, what do you think of the game this weekend? Seattle is a top-ranked team, do you think you can take them on?”
“How? Can you elaborate on your strategy for this weekend’s game against Seattle?”
Another long pause as flashbulbs flared and journalists thronged the giant Tongan. “No.”
“Are you confident you can defeat the legendary Seattle offense?”
“Tavita, what do you think of league commissioner Reginald Wartleby’s offensive comments about African Americans? What do you think of the rumored boycott of the League Awards on Saturday?”
“Is that no…? Does that mean you disagree with him? Or that you won’t be joining in the boycott?”
He’d developed an online fanbase who thought his terse non-answers were hilarious. One particularly memorable press conference featured Tavita saying “no” when asked about his strategy for a game, only for his agent to jump in and answer for him. That had become a constant pattern: Tavita said whatever he wanted to say, which was almost always yes or no, and then his agent would “interpret”: Tavita is looking forward to the game. Seattle has got some strong competitors, but Tavita is a world-class athlete who has been completely focused on preparing for this match.
So Lyle wasn’t surprised to learn he was a poor performer in front of a camera. Tavita had tried to get out of doing the commercial, but it was in his contract. All he had to do was say because it’s rugby night in Wichita in a macho way. Lyle spritzed more vegetable oil over his strapping chest.
“Okay, Tavita, you’re doing great, I’m glad you’re still with me. Can you say it again, this time we won’t run the cameras?” Lyle thought he’d try this. The camera was rolling, he had told the cameraman beforehand to keep filming no matter what. He thought Tavita might do better if he thought the camera was off. “No pressure, this is just a casual thing, I want to see how you would say it normally. No acting, no trying, just say it how you would say it, if I asked you what was going on tonight and you were going to a rugby night.”
He was quiet for a long time. “Rugby night is not a thing.”
“Yes, I know, Tavita, that’s okay. Pretend. I’ll invite you to a rugby night tonight, okay, how about that? You can come over, we’ll watch rugby games and, uh… talk rugby and… that kind of thing,” Lyle said — he was a marketing guy, he didn’t know or care about rugby. “So now we have real plans for tonight, right? We have a rugby night tonight.”
“Yes,” he said. He had a big beaming grin on his face.
Lyle nodded. “Good. Good. I’m looking forward to our rugby night,” Lyle said. “So if somebody asked you out tonight, you’d say no, because tonight is rugby night in Wichita.”
“Yes.” His bare pectoral muscles flexed all at once. Was he angry? Nervous? It was hard for Lyle to tell, especially since he was distracted by a flood of sexual desire — Lyle had spent all day spraying vegetable oil on bare rugby jocks’ chests, so he had been semi-aroused all day; this frustrating experience with Tavita had somehow made him forget that Tavita was mind-bogglingly sexy. Now Lyle blushed a little as vegetable oil dripped over Tavita’s mountainous pectorals.
Lyle backed out of the shot. “Okay, say it,” he said. He had stopped the whole thing where the guy with a clapboard marked the beginning of a scene, because that seemed to be making Tavita nervous. This was roughly take two hundred.
“Because tonight is… rugby night in Wichita.”
Lyle exchanged nervous glances with his director. That wasn’t technically the line, but it was close. Tavita glowered and fumed. Lyle wanted to say it looked like he was getting angry, but Lyle had no idea how to read Tavita’s emotions.
“Yeah, Tavita, perfect. That was great,” Lyle said, and he sighed. That was hardly great — it was stiff and weak and question-like, and there was a little pause in the middle. But it was close enough. He could get Robert Matheson to say the line as well — he was a charming, dimpled blond who had a hundred thousand followers to watch him steam fish and prepare healthy snacks on YouTube, and he was a pretty good rugby flanker too. Then Lyle could splice their lines together so that Tavita only said the word “Wichita”, and Robert said the rest. People liked the way Tavita said Wichita, even if the rest of the line sounded like Tavita was reading aloud his own death sentence.
Tavita even smiled for a moment before he left. He didn’t say anything. He didn’t say goodbye to his teammates. He didn’t even wash the vegetable oil off his body. He walked right out of the building and into the parking lot, still wearing nothing but his rugby shorts. He had forgotten his clothes and his cell phone there in the locker room where the shoot had finished up.
“Holy hell, that took forever…”
“Did he forget to put his clothes on?”
“I’m sure he didn’t forget.”
“He drove away. His wallet is in his pants. Look, he’s got a Donald Duck wallet with… literally nothing in it but his passport.“
“He had a piece of carrot on his shoulder when I did his makeup today. I asked him if he had carrots for breakfast, he said no. I asked if he had carrots for dinner, he said no. I asked when he last had carrots, he said he didn’t remember,” said Wendy, the makeup woman. She blushed and giggled with the other crew — it had been a long and stressful day, spent almost entirely trying to get Tavita to deliver his one line. “Who does that? How long has he had a carrot on his shoulder?”
“Okay, okay,” Lyle said, grabbing the wallet from Robby, the director. Robby looked chagrined. Lyle gathered up the cell phone and massive clothes. “Let’s chill out, I know Tavita is a bit of an oddball, but…-“
“He’s twenty-something years old, Lyle, and he’s got a Donald Duck wallet that my nephew would say was for babies. He’s a freak.”
“He looked at me like a steak he wanted to eat, and when I said hello, he looked at me like he was surprised a steak could talk.”
“Lyle, he never said that line right. You’re gonna have a hell of a time making it sound okay in editing.”
“It’ll be fine. We’ll fix it in post-production,” Lyle said. “Let’s not be mean. Tavita tried really hard. It was… He’s not good at this performance stuff. He’s not familiar with American culture.” But Lyle’s defense sounded flat even to him. Everyone just rolled their eyes and walked away. “I’ll call his agent,” Lyle said.
It turned out that Tavita’s agent was not surprised he had left his things at the filming location. Tavita regularly forgot “everything everywhere he went”, his agent said. Lyle waited for him to come pick up the clothes and cell phone to drop it off at Tavita’s house.
Lyle had hoped to finish filming today and get everything ready for the editors. He wouldn’t be able to do it all, but he could at least get all of the film in the same place, write down some notes on the more difficult takes (not just Tavita, Gerald Harkness had been very stiff, and Eddie Watters had a cold, while Rashad Milk had a cut on his lip that looked like a herpes sore; there was going to be a lot of photoshop needed to make this into a commercial). But after spending hours listening to Tavita’s liltingly awkward accent mangle the words because it’s rugby night in Wichita, Lyle just wanted to go home.
It wasn’t until he got home that Lyle started to laugh. He just giggled a little as he reheated last night’s dinner for leftovers. He recalled Tavita and laughed, finally letting out all of the humor he had had to repress today, both because he didn’t want to insult Tavita and because he didn’t want to interrupt filming with bouts of hysteria. Tonga is an English-speaking country, for Christ’s sake! Lyle just laughed to himself over and over. It felt good to get all that out.
As he cooked, he queued up some YouTube videos of Tongans speaking, just because Lyle wondered if he was being intolerant of Tongan culture. Maybe they all had that terse, stony-faced manner of speaking.
No, they were actually quite florid and expressive, at least on YouTube. They spoke like anyone else, just with a Tongan accent. It was Tavita who was weird.
When Lyle finished eating, he felt a lot better. It was silly to get frustrated. Tavita’s eccentricity actually made him pretty famous and brought a lot of attention to the Warriors. One of his interviews had gone viral on reddit and tumblr a few months ago because Tavita said I hate Kansas, it is ugly here. That was the entirety of his response — which was actually articulate and thorough compared to how Tavita normally talked — to several in-depth questions about how he was handling America. For anyone else who played for a Kansas team, that would have been a disaster.
But no one thought Tavita was supposed to say polite things, and some local newspapers had looked like over-sensitive pricks when they said he should apologize. Then Tavita kept the story alive by apologizing, reading (poorly) a prepared statement with his agent by his side, causing a counter-backlash from various corners of the Internet who thought (correctly) that he had been forced into saying something he didn’t believe. It was all complicated and confusing, but it led to sales of Tavita’s jersey quadrupling, so Lyle was happy with it.
There was a knock at the door. Lyle assumed it was his elderly neighbor needing help with the wireless router again. He rolled his eyes and opened the door.
It was Tavita, standing there, still shirtless and wearing those shorts. He appeared to have tried to wipe the vegetable oil off, but much of it still clung to him.
“Hello,” Tavita said.
“I am here.”
“Yes, I, uh, it’s good to see you, Tavita,” Lyle said. He let him in, still unsure what was happening here. He might have realized what was going on sooner but Tavita’s bare chest gleaming made Lyle horny and distracted. Tavita had to lower his head to fit into the doorway.
“Your agent has your clothes and your cell phone-“
“He does not. He gave them to me.”
“Oh, yeah. Okay. Good,” Lyle said. He wanted to ask why Tavita hadn’t changed and cleaned off, but his huge glowering presence was intimidating. Lyle had trouble thinking of what to say.
“Am I late?”
Lyle raised his eyebrows. “I’m sorry, I think I missed something. Why did you come here?”
“Because it is rugby night in Wichita.”
A long awkward silence filled the air — a common occurrence with Tavita. Finally Lyle managed to tear his eyes away from Tavita’s chest long enough to realize that Tavita had said the line at long last, that Tavita had meant it for real, not as a joke, and that Tavita had thought Lyle really expected him to come over tonight.
“Oh. Tavita… I’m sorry, that was just a line. It’s for a commercial,” Lyle said. He didn’t want to sound patronizing, but he didn’t know how much Tavita really understood.
“You said it was for real.”
“Well… Yeah, I actually said pretend it is for real,” Lyle said with a sigh. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to confuse you.”
“It is not rugby night in Wichita?”
“Well… No, not really,” Lyle said. “But you can, I mean… it’s okay. Do you want something to eat? We can watch some rugby games if you want. I have some on DVD.”
“I am hungry.”
Lyle just sighed again. Speaking to Tavita was a frustrating experience. He decided to stick to asking one yes-or-no question at a time. “Do you like grilled cheese?”
“Yes.” Since Tavita was so huge and he worked out so much, he was always hungry. That was the one thing he always showed enthusiasm over. Coach Michaels had had to stop providing orange slices during practice because Tavita would ignore everything until he had eaten every one. So now he handed out the orange slices to each individual, and waited for Tavita to finish because Tavita was unable to focus if he was eating.
Sure enough, Tavita waited wordlessly while Lyle grilled him a cheese; Tavita stared at Lyle without moving a muscle. Then when Lyle gave it to him, he devoured the whole thing before Lyle could even ask if he wanted hot sauce.
“Are you gay?” Tavita finally asked, bits of cheese grease dripping from his oversized lips.
Lyle was momentarily thrown for a loop. That was the first time he had ever heard Tavita ask a question beyond when is lunchtime? Tavita looked at Lyle with his head cocked to the side, though his face remained placid. Lyle felt small and weak.
“Yes,” Lyle said. He probably would have lied, just because Tavita was so big and strange, not to mention foreign — Tongans could have been homophobic, after all — but Lyle knew that they weren’t generally homophobic because he had been watching videos on YouTube just before Tavita arrived. One of those videos had been about gays in Tonga. It turned out that gays were pretty well-accepted there.
Tavita nodded. Lyle felt so awkward he might burst, but he tried not to let on. It was clear that this was a normal interaction for Tavita. His teammates had said he was always like this; they said they brought him to a strip club and he just giggled like a teenager whenever a stripper talked to him. Lyle tried to accept him the way he was. He put on a DVD of rugby games, which Lyle had bought when he was hired by the Wichita Warriors. He had sworn during the interview that he loved rugby, despite having never watched a game, so he had had to cram. It turned out rugby was very boring, but at least, Lyle thought, they wore those short shorts, which were pretty sexy.
Tavita wore those shorts now. His corded Tarzan-like thighs barely fit within them. He was still covered in oil, so before he sat down on the couch, Lyle offered to let him clean off.
“I did shower. It didn’t work,” Tavita said, as though that ended the issue and he had simply accepted that he would be forever covered in vegetable oil.
“You might need to use paper towels,” Lyle said. Tavita ignored him, leaning forward to watch the match begin. Lyle got up and got some paper towels, and stopped Tavita before he sat on the couch. “Here, use these.” Tavita just grabbed the towels and again tried to sit down. This time, Lyle physically stopped him — not really, of course, Tavita outweighed Lyle by more than two hundred pounds — but Lyle touched his side to get his attention as though preventing him from sitting down. “Sorry, you’ve got oil all over, I don’t want it on my couch.”