This is a continuation of sss979's series, and is co-written with her. (It's not necessary to read the other books to understand this one, but you may miss some things.) Lucky for me sss979 lets me play with her guys, even though I tend to return them in much worse condition than when she let me borrow them. If it wasn't for sss979 I would never have written anything more involved then a grocery list. Thanks for showing me a whole new world of fun and letting my imagination run wild and unfettered through your universe.
We don't own the A-Team and alas there is no money involved.
Thanks to Quentillian for putting up with my flights of fancy and my uncontrollable urge to poke and prod. Thanks also to Mel and Kiki for countless hours of reading, research, time and invaluable input. You are a wonderful group and I owe you more then I can even express, let alone repay.
A few words of English was all it took to catch Murdock's ear. There wasn't a lot of English spoken on the streets of Nha Trang. At least, not in this area. The soldiers were all in the GI bars on the other side of town. Murdock had no interest in anything over there. Beer and booze and prostitutes were not his bag. Instead, he was enjoying the atmosphere of the city, so different from anything he'd ever experienced in the States. Beautiful, white-robed women. Happy, half-naked (or completely naked) children everywhere. Hard to believe that this was right smack in the middle of such a war-torn, devastated country.
Poking his head in through the open door where he'd heard the English coming from, he saw a woman at the front of what looked like a classroom. The student she was talking to was not older than fifteen. She herself probably wasn't too much older. Of course, it was difficult to tell with the Vietnamese. They were a different breed, and they aged differently. He hadn't been here very long, but he was observant enough to figure that much out. No telling just how old she was. Didn't really matter.
Pretty, petite, smiling – she was just as attractive as most of the other women he'd seen on the streets here in the flowing white gowns and pointy hats. Maybe even more since she, unlike the rest of them, was actually approachable. She was a teacher - at least, that was his best guess - and he was surehe'd heard English coming from this room. Why wouldn't she be enthusiastic about a chance to practice what she taught? But as her student hurried past, she turned away without even acknowledging his presence in the doorway.
Murdock was intrigued. "Hi."
She turned, and stared at him blankly. "Toi co the giup ban?"
"Ah…" Damn. He should've paid more attention to those language courses. He was good with languages. But there had been so much to learn, and so fast, while he was taking those helicopter conversion classes, he'd hardly had time to sleep, much less to devote himself to learning another language.
It took him a minute of fumbling through his limited vocabulary to make sense of her question. "Uh… I heard you teaching. You were using English. Do you speak English?"
She was prettier close up. There was something about her that just seemed clean and right. Something pure and beautiful and simply attractive. Different from the prostitutes, who were none of that. Something not sexual, just innocent and pretty. Even in spite of the lingering, scrutinizing gaze she gave him, she seemed so innocent.
It wasn't a hostile stare, but it wasn't exactly friendly either. She was wary of him. He smiled back. Wary was okay. He knew enough about the social norms here to pick up on some of them. He prided himself on being observant, and this was a very different culture. He probably shouldn't even be speaking to her. She definitely shouldn't be speaking to him. She had reason to be wary.
"Little English. What you want?"
He chuckled. "Well, in any case, I'm pretty sure it's more than my Vietnamese." He was careful not to return the scrutinizing look as he smiled at her. "Maybe you could help me. You're a teacher, right? Maybe you can help me with my Vietnamese."
She frowned deeply. "No Vietnamese. French. You go." She turned her back to him as she gathered the papers on her desk into a pile.
Murdock picked up one of the papers and she quickly snatched it back. "No!" she snapped at him.
The tone was one that a mother might use with a disobedient child. It made him smile as he reached behind his back and grabbed a different one off of the desk. While she went back to organizing, he folded quickly and efficiently. By the time she looked up again, he held an origami crane on his palm, offering it to her.
She stared at it for a long moment, then at him. He raised a brow, waiting for her to take it. Finally, hesitantly, she took it from his hand, staring at it as if it might bite her. Nevertheless, it was a success. And he'd already grabbed another piece of paper. This time, it became a tiger. She watched him, still wary, as he held it out to her as well. But this time she didn't hesitate as long to take it.
He smiled. "I would hate for the crane to get lonely."
She didn't understand him. He could tell that by the confusion on her face. Nevertheless, she answered with a quiet, "Cam on," which he guessed was probably "thank you." He repeated her, and she stared at him for a moment, bewildered.
"How do you say 'You're welcome'?"
She hesitated for a long moment. This time, she was staring at him as if he might bite her. He forced back his smile and waited for her answer. He didn't get one. But she didn't try to stop him as he grabbed another piece of paper and spent a little more time folding it. He set the completed frog on one of the students' desk and with an aim that spoke of years of practice he pushed the frog and made it jump across the gap. It landed neatly on the desk beside her.
This time, she raised her fingers to cover her slight, involuntary smile. But she quickly realized it and stood straighter. She set the tiger and the crane on the desk beside the frog and took a step back. "I go. Good bye."
She tried to gather the rest of the papers, but in her rush she dropped them all over the floor. Murdock immediately bent down to gather them, and they nearly collided. "Here, let me help you."
She gathered the papers, taking them right out of his hands. "No, no, no."
"Toi giup," he tried, sure he wasn't saying anything sensical at all. He was definitely going to make a point of learning this language…
She took the papers from his hands as fast as he could pick them up. "I do. I do."
She was flustered when she stood again, papers falling randomly. She was trying to catch them before they hit the floor, but was only marginally successful. He tried to keep a straight face, but the absurdity of two adults fighting over who got to pick up the paper was too much. He just had to laugh as most of papers fell back to the floor. "We're like the Three Stooges."
She stared at him blankly. Clearly her English was not good enough to catch references like that. She set the papers on the desk, knelt to pick up the rest, and put them all on the table to organize them again. She was definitely flustered.
Still laughing, Murdock shook his head and let her recompose herself. "Cam on," he said with a smile as she finally looked back at him. "For the laughter. I needed to laugh."
She tipped her head as she studied him, anxiously. After a long moment, she offered a very hesitant, "Dung ngai."
That had to be the "you're welcome" phrase he'd been searching for earlier. He tried repeating it, several times, trying to mimic her inflection. It seemed to amuse her, and she let him go for quite a while, mutilating the phrase more and more every time until she finally corrected him.
"Dung ngai," she said. "You welcome."
"Dung ngai," he repeated carefully. For good measure he threw in his most formal and respectful bow.
She laughed openly at that, amused by him, and rambled a stream of Vietnamese he understood none of. As he looked back up at her, she hid her smile. "You funny." It was almost mocking, but certainly not vicious. Her laugher was a sweet and unexpected sound that left him wanting to hear it again.
"Why yes, I am funny," he replied proudly. The smile never left his eyes. He pointed to himself and said, "HM Murdock." He looked at her questioningly, wishing he could remember the word for "name." But the way she eyed him, he knew she understood.
She didn't answer immediately. When she finally did, it was hesitant. "Lieu Thi Cai."
As Murdock repeated her carefully, it occurred to him that he had no idea which of the three names was her first name. Eenie meenie minee mo… He was also certain that he saw a mischievous gleam in the girl's eye. He would almost suspect that she was enjoying all his floundering. "Cam on Lieu."
She frowned. "Cai. You say Cai."
Ah. Good. He was gonna have to ask some of those ARVNs for tutoring lessons when he got back to base.
"You go now." She gestured him towards the door. "Go."
He grinned as he backed towards the door. "Alright, but I'll be back to see you soon, Cai."
Since he didn't drink or gamble or have any interest in the whores, he had found his down time to be unbearably boring, even when he came out to Nha Trang. Maybe she'd help to make that less of a problem. There was only one way to find out.