Author's Note: Future chapters will be longer, I promise. This is more of a backstory chapter. As a disclaimer I'd like to note I don't own anything in this fanfic and this is not being done for profit. Some chapters in the future may contain Mongolian phrases/words, since this incarnation of Gene would never have been exposed to the Chinese language in his life. All Mongolian will be translated and hopefully used correctly, but feel free to correct me if I mess up. On that note the story's name is a reference to Gene's new hero name, which roughly translates to golden hero. I felt that Mandarin was an odd name for a Mongolian hero, so I changed it to something more Mongolian and less Chinese.
Side Note/Warning: This fanfic contains Pepperony and Gene/Whitney in future chapters. Just a heads up for those who prefer/dislike certain pairings. Oh, and in case the summary wasn't blatant enough about it, there will be evil Tony ahead. And it is awesome.
My little sun, you light my sky, when you smile I feel the clouds come apart. Precious child, do you know that you are loved? My little sun, come let me hold you, you warm my soul. – Mongolian lullaby
Experience is not what happens to a man; it is what a man does with what happens to him. – Aldous Huxley
Narangerel was running, crying, and bleeding.
There was blood covering her pants, her coat, and her boots. Mixed in with them, barely visible in the dim glow of the street lights, were tears in the fabric and mud. Her knees were both skinned but she didn't slow in the least as she rounded a corner as fast as her long legs could take her. The seventeen year old woman tightened her grip around her son, not daring to look down or pause to comfort him. He was hungry and cold and very confused, but he was alive. That much had taken everything she had to ensure. Now both their lives depended on the kindness of a man she barely knew. This was half desperation and half insanity. Still, with nowhere else to go and no relatives in the city she simply had no other choice. Clutching her child to her, she sprinted across the street, ignoring the skidding cars and angry shouts of drivers in the early morning snowfall. She was soaked to the bone. Parts of her coat had frozen outright. Temugin was still mostly dry and warm, but he was scarcely four years old and there were limits to what his body could take.
"Howard!" she screamed, nearly hysterical. "Howard!"
Three floors up, she thought she saw a hotel room light flicker on. She didn't pause, barreling through the locked glass doors with all her strength. The shattered glass embedded itself in her right arm and she didn't even pause. Narangerel was past caring about her own health. All she cared about was her son. So long as he was alright she could care less what happened to her own body. Adrenaline and fear spurred her up the stairs three at a time, calling out for the foreign man with the kind eyes she'd come to call her friend. He was a virtual stranger but he was American and rich. He could protect them, she knew he could, and she would have kicked in his door had he not opened it just then. She stood before him, midnight black hair a wild mess, bloody and filthy, shaking with the effort of what she'd done. Weakly, Narangerel held out her son to him. Howard took Temugin and cradled him, hushing him softly and opening the door to allow the Mongolian woman to enter. She took four steps in and collapsed onto the floor, still conscious despite the tremendous pain.
"Howard," she half-whispered like a prayer as she struggled to sit up, "Take care of Temugin, please, after I'm gone. Here," she mumbled, pulling a necklace with a ring on it off her neck and holding it out to him. "This is for my son."
"Naran, calm down," Howard instructed her, handing the child to his friend. Narangerel thought she remembered Howard saying the black man was in the army. She couldn't recall his name through the blood loss and trauma of the past few days. "Tell me what happened, slowly."
"A Chinese man tried to kill me and she threw a vase at him. It hit his head." Temugin supplied, looking pleadingly at the man who held him now. "Please make my mom stay, I don't wanna be all alone!"
"You'll have Howard," Narangerel told him, struggling to use the wall to steady herself as she stood. "You will get to play with his son and go to a good school. It'll be fun." She gave Howard a pleading look. "I have to go or the Tong will find me. They were close behind us-"
"They're not going to get through the laser parameter," Howard assure her, and when the Mongolian woman gave him a look that said she didn't understand a word of that, he pressed a button on a device that looked like a remote control. Bright purple lasers coursed through the walls of the room. "Anyone who touches those will get a third degree burn. You don't have to leave Temugin to protect him. Naran, you're safe."
Her rose quartz colored eyes widened. Then she embraced Howard, wrapping her too-thin arms around his waist and burying her head in his shoulder. "Thank you, thank you so much, Howard," she murmured into the fabric of his shirt, "I don't know what I could ever do to repay you…"
He wrapped his arms around her waist as her knees buckled. "Right now, you can start by letting me treat these injuries and giving me the whole story. Rhodes, can you grab the first aid kit for me? And then maybe you should go get some breakfast for all of us."
Narangerel allowed herself to be led to a couch as Temugin looked around the suite in awe. This was bigger than their house. He began to follow the black man known as Rhodes around, looking a little intimidated by the man's height. This foreigner didn't speak Mongolian, but he was, in Temugin's own words, chocolate-colored and super tough. Temugin kept three steps behind him at all times. His mother smiled, exhausted.
"I think you have a new fan," she said in English, gesturing towards her son.
David Rhodes smiled down at the little Mongolian boy, who was curiously poking at the man's shoes. "They're so cute at this age. I got a son back home who's four and a half, although he's shorter than your kid." He handed the first aid kit to Howard. "Anything you want in particular to eat?" She shook her head, and he turned to go, pausing only at the door when a thought occurred to him. "Miss Narangerel, how old are you?"
"And how old is your son?"
His eyes widened. "Oh."
And although he didn't say anything else, there was a kind of compassion in his eyes now that crossed the language barrier. It was the cross-parent compassion, that pity for those in a harder situation than them with the same amount of children. Narangerel understood it well. Foreigners did not have children until later on, and even in her home country she had been the object of scorn for her actions. Though many had simply mocked her poor farmer of a husband, and informed her she could do far better socially, there had been no shortage of sneering people calling her a child. They had said she did not know what she was getting into. Perhaps they were right, but her love had blinded her and she'd thought that surely she would be able to make it with Nergui by her side. Maybe, some defiant part of her said, they would have. She'd never know, not her husband struck dead by the Tong. Before she hadn't understood why they'd gone after a simple farmer and his family. Now she understood they were after the Rings… and worse yet, Temugin. The murder of a good, hard working, soft spoken young man was nothing to them. They were monsters.
Thankfully, some twist of fate had brought her young son into a friendship with another little boy, a brunette with white skin who liked to get into mischief. Apparently this was enough for them to bridge the language barrier, although not enough to get them out of trouble. Narangerel still remembered the police officer holding one boy under each arm, his head covered in honey and a screwdriver sticking out of his left ear, asking her if this was her son. Temugin had claimed it was Tony's idea. Tony claimed the opposite. The two parents had talked it over and decided it was probably a dual effort to cause this much trouble. Despite the difference in class between the two of them, parenting was a universal uniting factor.
She'd never thought that friendship would save her life. And yet here they were, Temugin severely shaken and terrified yet very much alive, making a fort out of couch cushions in Howard Stark's hotel suite. It was like something out of a very odd dream, the only reassurance this was real the aching of her battered and winded body. Exhausted but finally safe, she fell asleep within moments of Howard wrapping the last of her cuts, sprawled across the couch without pillows or blankets. The American smiled, leaving the room briefly to return with a thick comforter that he laid atop her sleeping form. Temugin poked his head out of the fort to ask if his mother needed a pillow. Howard shook his head no and supervised the fort's continued instruction with a fond smile on his face as the first hints of dawn began to show over the mountain tops. Tomorrow was still uncertain, and he wasn't sure what the future held.
But everyone was alive and safe, and that was enough for right now.