Parting of the Ways Part 11- Shining Armor


Winnisimmet was a flutter of activity for the Finn Family compared with London. Michael Finn and his fiance Courtney Bollinger had the luxury of spending their summer alone, in a different country, among people who detested them for no reason other than they weren't British. It wasn't anything new to Michael, but for Courtney it was tiring and made her long for home after just three days there.

They were lucky to have been given free reign over a townhouse owned by Michael's aunt Karen's in-laws, Lord Bradford and Lady Ophelia Smith, in one of the swanky London borough. Being a classic townhouse it was large and had several dozen rooms but was not even 1/4th of the size of the Smith estate in Lincolnshire. Despite having a maid who came to clean it and with the building serving as the estate's London office the two tried hard to keep it clean and treat it like home instead of a hotel.

The two had a lot to keep them busy. Michael had a prized internship with Evans Investments Ltd., the whole reason they were in England at all. Courtney was acting as an assistant to the ambassador to the Court of St. James' wife, Lillian Gorman. The ambassador and his wife were both members of their extended family and treated Courtney as a great-niece and secured her the job due to this connection.

Much of their day was spent working but after work they were essentially cut off from the world as they didn't interact with others. Up until mid-July Michael's coworkers either didn't appreciate working alongside a boy four to six years younger than them while the staff at the embassy kept their distance from Courtney as they didn't want to upset their boss. They were grateful to have each other, but it was lonely in London without any friends or family except the Gormans.

The 4th of July festivities was the closest they got to enjoying themselves as the Smiths came south to enjoy the holiday at Winfield House, the official residence of the ambassador. Michael was teased by his cousins about their activities while Courtney got in a few shots about their bedtime fun as well. The three couples were trying hard not to mention sex but it was clear that it was expected of them despite it being something private among them.

Lillian had Courtney keeping the local children entertained while keeping the peace among the adults. Courtney thrived at this, with the staff being grateful for her abilities and way with kids. She didn't think much about it, she was used to little kids due to her baby brother and young cousins but to Lillian it looked like there was more going on with her that she wasn't seeing, she was almost maternal.

The festivities were a big hit but after that things started to stagnate. When they first arrived in late June after their trip out to California for Jaimie Finn's surgery they made visits to various tourist sites they hadn't visited before. Once that was over with they took in West End shows and performances at the Globe Theatre before finally staying in. They used their time to study for their upcoming fall semester but it was tough to do with the distractions of the big city.

Michael eventually dove into his stock trading and day by day built up his personal wealth through his calculated trades. Courtney, though, went out and volunteered with various local shelters so her time was at least spent helping others instead of herself. Michael encouraged this, hoping that she would have a chance to get her fix of helping others as her natural empathy was hard to contain at times.

The couple spent two weeks avoiding boredom. They were working so hard that neither noticed that Courtney was running late on an ordinary event. She had completely forgotten that she was due to have her "visitor" and two weeks past its date she was awoken to nausea for the first of what would be several long weeks of nauseous mornings.

Looking at a calendar she shed a tear, quickly dressing and rushing off to the nearest chemist to confirm what she feared. Michael was oblivious to her sickening noises, he was a heavy sleeper who required Courtney to wake him so she was slip out and return a half hour later with what she needed. A short time later, Courtney had her confirmation. She was pregnant with Michael's child.

She sat on the bed trembling, her hand holding the plastic and cardboard test strip. Michael started to stir and was greeted with a crying, somber Courtney holding the test and looking for direction. Michael was no fool, he shed a tear and hugged her tight until both cried themselves out over the realization at what they had done back in June now affecting their future.

They were pregnant. They had done the deed and would accept the consequences. Michael could have used a condom but he was too caught up in the moment to be bothered with it. Courtney could have taken her birth control pills for longer than April but chose to stop due to feeling that she was too mature to need them and trusted both herself and Michael to wait until they were older to have sex. They both shared the blame and would endure the consequences together.

Michael kissed her deeply and told "we will get confirmation. After work we will visit a doctor. We are engaged but I want us to marry before our child is born. I can't ask you to abort nor can I ask you to do something that you don't want to do. Will you still marry me?"

Courtney let her mouth do the talking as she kissed him deeply, curling his toes and leaving him breathless. She got dressed in her work clothes then put a phone call in to her boss to alert her that she would need to speak with her about a personal matter later and may need to speak with the ambassador himself as well. Her colleagues didn't hesitate, if she was requesting a personal meeting it was big news and gave it to her without a second thought.

Michael went to work with a spring in his step. He was going to be a father. He had created a new life and had money, a home, and a loving family behind him. He had everything he could want in life.

His boss, Grace Evans, noticed this change in him and inquired about it. Michael tried to evade the question but it was such a drastic change in him that she had to take notice lest it be something that was harmful to him or the company. She had known him long enough to tell that he wasn't the same.

Michael closed the office door and struggled to tell her "we found out this morning that Courtney is expecting. We were too excited graduation night to bother with protection and are now with child. We didn't plan on having children until we graduated but we can't abort him or her and we can't give him or her up for adoption either. We are already engaged so it only moved up our marriage plans by a year."

Grace grinned at him, knowing that he wasn't one to back down from a challenge. She asked about his family and their reaction, getting a somber "we didn't have a chance to tell anyone, we will do so later. My cousins will skin me alive if I didn't tell them right away but it's too early now to do so."

She let him get back to work, but offered a reassuring "she is stronger than you think, she will be happy for you. She will give a child a loving home." Michael nodded, adding "he's going to do the same for you, he's his mother's son but with his father's looks. He will win over the ladies soon, just watch."

Courtney went to work with a less than enthusiastic look. Lillian pulled her aside and asked what was the matter, getting a somber "I'll explain later. I'm your last appointment of the day."

Lillian tried to call Michael to get information but was quickly given the excuse of being too busy to talk. She started to see that something big was going on and kept a close eye on Courtney, not letting her do anything without her oversight. To some that was trouble for Courtney, but to those who knew Lillian well it was a sign that she was concerned for Courtney rather than looking to sack her.

Courtney managed to get an appointment with a local doctor during her lunch hour. The doctor was sympathetic towards here and while they discusses alternatives Courtney was adamant that she would have the baby. The doctor didn't seem to understand her stubbornness until Courtney pointed out Michael's financial independence, their owning a home, and their family having a lot of money and a lot of support including childcare services and healthcare. In short, it was the ideal home.

Courtney was given the all clear and with a quick ultrasound was shown to be about seven weeks along, just as she expected. She left with a prescription for prenatal vitamins and congratulations. She simply said thanks and rushed back to work, drinking a quick smoothie as her lunch.

Michael arrived for the meeting with Lillian a few hours later. Lillian called and got her husband Walter to come as well, he needed to hear what was about to be said as there was not going to be any secrets between them regarding their family. Michael gulped hard as Walter gave him a stern gaze while Courtney sank low, in shame over them judging them already.

After a minute, Courtney told the two "I'm pregnant. We just found out this morning. During lunch I had a doctor confirm it so there is no mistake. I haven't had the chance to tell anyone else yet due to work so you are the first to know. I didn't want it affecting my day but I have to tell you so you don't think the worst about us. I'm sorry, if need be I'll quit so you don't have to get any flak."

Walter smiled while Lillian hugged Courtney. The elder happily told the couple "you didn't do anything wrong and accidents happen. You are being man enough to stick by her. That's the biggest act of being a man, something your uncle Roland never learned. If your parents have an issue with it I'll gladly have them explain to me why they do. I trust John, Valerie, Zeke, and Gabby to not be upset. It may take some time for John to recover from the shock of being a grandfather but even he will understand."

The two hugged tightly and were forced to stay for dinner at Winfield House. It took a lot of bargaining and counter bargains to keep the couple away from there in the first place but they had to go that night. Walter insisted that Michael tell the family, with all knowing not to say anything with him there and giving the couple their best chance of doing it all at once.

Winfield House was abuzz as the family arrived. The call was scheduled with Gabby and Zeke being asked to grab everyone as they had news. Walter forced the couple to enjoy dinner with them, knowing that they wouldn't otherwise eat with the news being so important.

After dinner was finished and the staff had cleared out at the request of Walter, Michael Skyped the family account from Walter's laptop. Michael and Courtney winced as their parents hadn't just gathered their brothers and sisters, they had called in their aunts and uncles and cousins. The Finns and both branches of the Bollinger family were there alongside the Sylvester, Jones, Peterson, Lopez, Johnson, Castillo, Vincent, Pena, Porter, and Samuels branches of the family. All wanted to hear the news.

John saw the concerned looks on their faces and told them firmly "whatever it is you had to say, you have to say it to all of us. If it is as important as you let on, they will need to know anyway." The two looked at one another then at Walter who nodded. Michael blurted out "Courtney's pregnant."

All eyes turned to John, Valerie, Zeke, and Gabby. The four carefully asked "are you sure?" Courtney nodded, adding a tear filled "I'm two weeks late. I got my first morning sickness this morning. I bought a test and saw a doctor during lunch and it was confirmed both times. I'm seven weeks along."

The little kids squealed at hearing that while most of the adults the adults took them off so the four parents could talk. The kids wanted to hear more but Miles Finn and Jessie Bollinger took command of them leaving them with no way to object without ending up in trouble. The adults simply left without saying a word, helping roust the kids and toddlers for the four parents giving them privacy.

John was unable to form words while Valerie had tears in her eyes at her baby becoming a father. Zeke had to hold Gabby who was feeling faint at the news but offered a strong "you know what to do." Michael shot back a firm "Christmas Day. No reason not to have it then when everyone is there. Lord Bradford and Lady Ophelia already had plans to come visit then so it's best for all."

Courtney kissed his cheek then looked at Walter who nodded at Lillian. Walter gave him a happy "we'll be there. I am not being retained by the new President at my own request. It's high time that I retired so I could enjoy family while I have them. You simply gave me reason to have the staff groom my replacement a couple of weeks early. Officially I retire on the 3rd of January but unofficially I'm done the 23rd of December giving me a week and a half with all of you."

The only ones who weren't told were the Smiths. John told them that Nigel would not tell his wife or kids without their blessing and whether he was told by the family or not was up to the couple. Courtney told them not to tell him yet, let Karen tell him. Michael groaned as Courtney added "we will be seeing them soon. Lord Bradford is being knighted by the Queen so will be staying with us."

John snorted at that, which caught the others off guard. He grinned and added a happy "they extended an invitation to you thanks to me. They will claim that it is to give you the 'opportunity' to see something sacred but it's about me. Be on guard, the snobs in the royal household will try everything to keep you away but the real power people need you there for appearances."

Walter grinned at that. John added a terse "it figures, you'd be invited as well. She's giving the honorary knighthood to you as a courtesy for years of service, isn't she?"

Walter grinned and nodded, to which he added "Michael was asked for by Lord Bradford but as he is as close to family as I have he was going to go regardless. The Prime Minister knows about your connection and actually would have preferred I keep it a secret and keep Michael away from the ceremony but I told her off as his sister's genitals has nothing to do with my work and he is family no matter what that woman may believe. Besides, her majesty has heard a few things about Michael and Courtney and what she heard impressed her. It didn't come from me or Bradford though."

Michael made note of having his best suit ready for the ceremony. John signed off with the two being told that they would handle Jaimie's fallout when it was leaked. The two kissed then thanked them while Walter stood proud behind them. He patted Michael on the back and offered his congratulations, he had done something that would have made most men crumble and accepted the consequences.

At work the next day, Grace asked how the news went. Michael gave a grin and happily explained "my family accepted it for what it was and didn't make a big deal out of it. I have to tell the Smiths though which should be even tougher. My cousins aren't going to go easy on me for keeping the news away for so long but I didn't want them rushing south for something that could wait."

She asked for the other bit of news. He cocked his head and groaned, asking "did they announce that he was getting it already?" She nodded, adding "a few are complaining about a Yank having the honor but they conveniently ignore that multiple Americans had been given it for similar service. Plus I expected you to be there anyway, Bradford wouldn't leave his son's nephew behind for such an event although I think he was pushing it with exceeding the allowed number of guests."

She enjoyed toying with Michael, he was an easy mark and the two had a special connection that made her appreciate him as a person. He was responsible for getting her son Arthur to temper his libido and to enjoy his maleness instead of going overboard trying to prove he was just as much a man as his friends. Arthur had never had someone his own age treat him with such respect, it changed him instantly after meeting someone who understood a gender change as thoroughly as Michael did.

The two worked hard for several hours as Michael gave a critical inspection of the company's newest investments and recent transactions. Michael spotted several questionable purchases and trades that he felt were detrimental to the company with at least two that would backfire badly. Grace didn't need for him to explain why they were bad, she knew from the person approving them that they were off.

Grace grinned as Michael explained "I told the stockbrokers that these were dangerous companies. At least three are set to have terrible sales and one is going to be investigated for fraud by Her Majesty's Government. Whomever approved of these needs to account for why they did as you stand to lose up to £20 million from these terrible purchases."

Grace shook her head and added a firm "they went around your back and mine. This was done after hours and without my approval. The man responsible didn't have the authority to make the purchases nor did he have the right to use our company's finances to act as insurance for the sales. I agreed with you in full and can't see them as anything but junk. We need to have a chat with Mr. Roberts, I don't appreciate someone putting my firm at risk just to smite a coworker who has proven more value than any other in four weeks than most in several years."

Elijah Roberts was expecting the duo to come in and sat with a wide grin on his face. He did what he did because he knew he could get away with it and used the firm to cover his tracks. He didn't take into account that Grace held a tight lid on the finances and checked all major transactions herself.

Grace entered with Michael behind her. Elijah told Michael to leave, this didn't concern him. Grace just grinned and told him loudly and firmly "actually, it does. As the senior analyst and the person who you report to he is the one person who should have been alerted to what you are doing. He is here and he is going to listen to you explain why you put my company at risk with known bad investments."

Elijah fought for the right words and blurted out "I refuse to listen to some nobody twit without a penny to his name nor a university degree to show what he says should be listened to. This piece of Yankee garbage is selling you nothing but hot air and you are buying it wholesale without question! Do you know what he is? He's the son of a criminal, nephew of a criminal, and brother of a sexual deviant! How dare you tell me to listen to him! You are not going to ruin my life because you can't grow a spine and tell that little tramp you call a son to put on a dress and act like a woman."

Grace just smirked then pointed out "I see you did some digging into his past. Yes, his birth father is a criminal as is his uncle. Then again so was your father, uncle, and grandparents. I see that it rubbed off on you as well. That young man happens to be sitting on a personal fortune of £8 million. His adoptive father, a man I know personally and respect, is a man who has close to £600 million. His sister is herself a millionaire with a bright future ahead who has done nothing to warrant that verbal assault."

She held off her own anger and told him "as your trades were unauthorized, you will personally need to reimburse the company for all commissions and all losses incurred. That will be taken out of your final paycheck as you are immediately sacked. Your actions were in direct violation of multiple company rules not to mention being both unethical and possibly illegal. Pettiness will get you nowhere and as you have shown that you could care less about rules your own reputation is ruined. Not by him, but by your own actions. I will not hesitate to show how you violated a fellow employee's privacy as well as demeaned a minor child whom you have never actually met. Just be glad his sister isn't in the mood to sue you for such horrid claims as his father would gladly ensure you are penniless and homeless."

He got up to leave, saying he'd get her back for what she is doing to him. Grace just shook her head and told the security officer outside to call the police. Elijah went after her but was brought down by the security officer who informed him she would be pressing charges now for assault. Grace had a look of death in her eyes as she added "my son had never done a thing to hurt you yet you felt the need to insult him as well as myself. Be glad I am not vindictive or I'd have you in court for slander."

The office didn't bat an eye at Elijah being arrested, he had earned their disgust long ago. Elijah had been the protege of the former head of the investment division who had thoroughly insulted Jaimie Finn the previous summer when Michael was there to interview for the same internship. Elijah kept his head down but he was cut from the same cloth and bought the same bigoted ideas as his then boss.

Michael was left to deal with the fallout and correct the transactions, working together with other traders to negate the sales and dealing with the few who had an issue with it directly. Their issues weren't so much with Michael but rather with the extra work they had to now put in to unwind Elijah's mistakes. He was quick and precise, and when all was finished he managed to keep the company from losing any money while Elijah was stuck with the bill for the transaction fees and customer losses.

An hour later news broke that Michael had expected, a company was under investigation for fraud. Other stories broke that earnings were lower than expected and layoffs loomed for the companies. His predictions were prophetic, he had just shown to all that he was one to listen to rather than ignored.

Michael had the respect of the junior brokers while still had to endure the shunning and scorn of the senior management. Grace didn't bat an eye at their critiques, asking what was wrong with what Michael was asking then pointing out that he was right in demanding they follow through. She went a step further by insisting that they cease complaining or they would have their own duties relieved and given to junior employees while their own actions were put under scrutiny to show if they were qualified to have their positions of management.

Most backed down but two called her bluff. She casually told their assistants to direct all calls to the junior associates while they had to scramble to endure the same amount of hustling that their underlings had to just to make quota. As expected, both failed badly and couldn't rely on any old contacts to bail them out as they had retired or been shown to be frauds or simply moved on to a different job market and the people who were left were weary of buying their stocks due to lack of information with gut-feelings not cutting it anymore with them.

Grace grinned as she informed them "you clearly have no idea what you are doing anymore. While you are used to buttering up potential clients at social events and through other brokers Michael and the junior associates have been studying for hours as they learn the market's trends and needs. The old system went away long ago, welcome to the new era of electronic trading where analysis and statistics reign. I hope you learned a lesson here as I won't accept any more abuse or ignorance form you."

Both men backed off criticism and put several of their associates in their place. Michael had done something that none could rightly claim: he had in just one week earned the firm £5 million and had to take credit for saving them another £20 million from stopping Elijah's bad investments. For someone who was only 18 and had no university experience and attended a US public school Michael was the one to go to for a second set of eyes and advice on where to lead their investors with confidence.

Over the weekend, Michael and Courtney were guests of Grace and her husband Charles. The couple were treated like family with their son Arthur acted like a cousin to Michael. He clearly had a crush on Courtney but given his young age of 14 it was expected. His testosterone treatments had only just started and were giving him a lot of weird feelings but it was a compliment to her to be admired.

Courtney had trouble seeing any female in Arthur, he was just so natural as a boy and had all of the normal mannerisms and even the occasional foul language of a male. He was a typical 14-year-old and had her reminded of home especially her sister's boyfriend. Arthur picked up on the subtle glances and felt embarrassed but Courtney's soothing words calmed him.

She was honest, explaining "I'm sorry for making you feel odd. I'm having trouble seeing any part of Alyssa in you. I'm used to Michael's second cousin, who's also my sister's friend, trying hard to not show any female in him but you are just so natural, even more so than he is. You are tall, well built, and going to make the girls flutter when you are allowed to date. To be honest, you remind me of Oscar, my sister's boyfriend, in all but looks. You are a littler bit more muscular than he is."

Arthur just needed to hear her words, he didn't take offense and wanted the truth. He asked about Diego Vincent, Michael's cousin who is like Arthur, getting a glowing review as well as showing off pictures of him and his friends. Arthur unintentionally blurted out "she's hot" when he saw Amy Bollinger, with Courtney blushing while Michael added "she's taken, as are all of the girls."

Michael and Courtney were doing what Grace and Charles hadn't been able to do. Despite being supportive of their son they had struggled with understanding him as a person. He was his father's son but Charles was fighting years of seeing his daughter Alyssa grow until she could no longer live a lie and admitted to them that she was Arthur and he needed to be the boy he should have been born as.

Arthur caught their looks and softly muttered "dad and mum are still seeing Alyssa in me. I've been Arthur for two years but they keep thinking about me as their daughter. I don't know why they can't just see me. It's impossible to not see their son is right here, not their daughter. I wish they'd just accept that I am not going to go back to Alyssa and this isn't some phase I'll grow out of when I get tits."

Courtney gave Michael a signal to give them some privacy. Michael told Grace and Charles "he's got an unwanted friend coming in a day or two. He may have started hormones and blockers but sadly it'll take a few months to get sorted out and stop his body from becoming a woman. Sadly, that means at least two or three more visitors that no boy wants. He is emotional, please don't misinterpret it as him being defiant or upset. It's the hormones talking, not Arthur. He can't help it."

Courtney hugged Arthur then told him calmly "it will take a few months to sort out your hormones and stop your periods. Diego didn't stop his until April, you just don't stop automatically because you have been getting the shots especially as you don't get the full shots that he is getting. Give your parents a chance to understand, they will be there for you. They are a scared as you are about your change and just want you to be happy with yourself."

Arthur kissed her cheek in thanks then went off with his parents while Michael and Courtney went up to their room. A short time later Grace thanked them for understanding and helping. Michael simply said that it was just helping his boss but Courtney added a firm "he is happy to help where experience is needed and it is thanks to Arthur that we were able to understand Diego and are just returning the favor. He's a good kid, he just needs a long talk with both of you."

The next day Arthur and Michael went out for a while to unwind while Courtney talked with Grace. Grace was a flurry of words as she asked about the pregnancy so far. Courtney blushed deeply as she tried to think of answers but Grace was only making her think, she was trying to act as a parent which wasn't too hard given that Michael had grown on her and by extension so had Courtney.

Charles made himself scarce but spent quite a bit of time talking with Arthur at Michael's insistence. He was awkward but he forced himself to listen to Arthur then offer some advice that only a dad can give to a son. It was slowly breaking down the barriers between the two and letting Arthur show that he was the son that his dad wanted and not the daughter he thought he had. The more they talked, the more that Charles actually found himself smiling and eventually laughing as his son charmed him and won him over.

The couple stayed the weekend and were treated like family once the tension had evaporated. Arthur was acting like a new man and had taken his talk with Courtney to heart and used it to full effect despite knowing that he would have to endure the humiliation of his visitor for a while. Charles had finally seen that his daughter was truly gone, his son was alive and well and was the image of his father even if he wasn't likely to play football for England. Grace was pleased that the couple had been able to help them out while also enjoying a weekend away from their boredom and pressures of work.

Work proved to be relaxing for Michael as he all but ran the stock investment office with most of the senior traders now acting as his advisers and the junior traders listening to him with eagerness to please. Grace and her board of directors let Michael run roughshod over the office with only cursory glances at the results. He was cautious but he knew when to hit a company and when to dump one and from this faith he was ensuring that the company was a success each time.

Michael encountered his first issue with trading when the Financial Conduct Agency tried to claim that Michael was illegally trading stocks as he lacked the proper qualifications. They were operating under information from Elijah Roberts, who claimed he did the actual trading and was allowed to do so with no regard for the laws nor any liability. They didn't take long to investigate as Michael's name had come up in a few inquiries regarding his abilities and what he was legally allowed to do, most of which were inquiries from the people linked to Elijah and his former bosses.

The FCA were given unanimous statements of support for Michael from the junior and senior traders, all of whom supported the claim that he did nothing except direct them in the right direction and use a few of his own theories that were based on information anyone could obtain to figure out what was the best options for their trading. They went further to show that Michael actually did no trading at all, he was a consultant who analyzed and reported to Grace and who only pointed you where he felt the next trend was going to come from rather than doing any grooming of clients or purchases..

Elijah landed in hot water as he himself lacked credentials to trade in the manner that he was trading. Much of his own credentials were not able to be used and his capacity at the company was only supposed to be in statistical analysis but he had been appointed to a position of making trades under the stock brokerage division. He had actually been the one in violation and saw himself blacklisted from the London Stock Exchange and unable to find a job in the financial services area.

The wonder kid did himself a service by wowing the FCA representatives as his theories, based on the information on hand, were accurate as the next day his recommended buys soared in price. The FCA had their eye on Michael but it was more for what he could do than what he actually did. He casually told them that he was US-based until his graduation as he had a job and was growing his family it would be unlikely that he would move out of the Boston area for a long time.

The FCA fiasco over, Michael and Courtney enjoyed an afternoon at the park. As they were walking from the Tube station they were nearly run over by a car jumping the curb trying to avoid the traffic signal and a nearby police car. The car ended up hitting the police cruiser sending it into an adjacent building then going into a wall and with a woman screaming at a man behind the wheel.

The man went at Michael for getting in the way, brandishing a knife at him. Michael yelled to Courtney to check on the people in the car while Michael dealt with the deranged man, hoping that he would be dumb enough to keep his attention on him long enough for help to arrive. Onlookers didn't move, they saw the knife and screamed causing him to lunge at them only to have Michael get his attention back on him allowing them to get to safety.

None of the onlookers tried to help out leaving Courtney alone to deal with the family in the car. There were several kids in the back strapped into seats while a woman in front was dazed and confused. She tried to help the kids in the back and the woman who was bleeding from her head, while calling 999 for help but struggled with doing all three at once.

The man was lunging at Michael, who was just far enough away to not be at direct risk. He finally got fed up and tried to wrestle Michael, who kicked out his knees, elbowed his temple, then brought a kick to the man's back causing him to pass out from the blows and pain and concussive shock. Michael carefully got the knife away then turned to the car, hoping that it wasn't as bad as he feared with several onlookers holding the man in place for Michael.

Courtney was having trouble with the woman's seat belt but got the kids in the back out safely. She had to break the glass with her foot then pull the kids out. Michael took over and unbuckled he seat belt by climbing inside and pulling it away from her body.

Courtney helped the kids and woman while Michael turned his attention to the police cruiser that hit the building. The officer inside was dazed but coming about, Michael helped her out and was able to get her over to where Courtney was. She didn't say much, she had a concussion making her thinking foggy and causing her to mumble softly.

As he was getting her out of the car the police and EMS arrived. The woman from the car that caused the accident screamed at them to take the man in for kidnapping them, saying that he jumped into her car and forced her to drive. She then added that Michael subdued him on his own, with Courtney helping save the kids and her.

Their colleague added the same, noting that he purposely tried to avoid the intersection when he saw her. He hit her car and forced her off the road which sent the car careening into the pole and hers into the building. Michael and Courtney were heroes.

It took an hour but CCTV showed both the kidnapping and cars crashing then the assault on Michael which was hard to believe but was what matched the witness statements. His actions were a surprised as he didn't show any fear. He was told that it was foolish but Michael countered that he was defending himself and had been trained in martial arts and self defense, offering a few references to verify both. His father's and uncles' police cards as well as his cousin's satisfied their curiosity.

The news had a field day with the two unassuming Americans accidentally stopping a carjacking due to being in the way of an erratic driver. Their names were revealed which brought Walter in and got the media to back off. He expected a few people would be interested in Michael but it was unavoidable.

Michael had to endure an interview with the BBC with his father's wealth and his relationship to Courtney being put out there. He told off the interviewer, pointing out that technically they were 3rd cousins through their fathers but neither were blood. He added a harsh "I noticed you never asked about my job or my fiance's job, I know you know about both and it pains you to say that I am a successful person in my own right with a fiance who volunteers her time helping others.

The interviewer was then told a firm "my father was lucky but he grew his wealth through shrewd investments and trust in people who showed they are the best in the business to handle his money. He may be nouveau riche but he has done more for helping others than many have in decades. I knew you would insinuate something so I looked into your family as you did mine. For an 'old money' family you barely have enough to keep the manor and you neither spread your perceived wealth nor can afford to donate anything to charity. So please, continue to belittle my family. There are thousands who happily tell you what my family has done for our community. Exactly what have you done for yours, besides insulting others? You haven't done anything, except badger interviewees hoping for something to use against them to make a name for yourself in the hopes of getting a better show."

The interview backfired on the BBC and led to another, more on-point, interview replacing it as the reporter was humiliated and forced to withdraw his report. Courtney and Michael's familial relationship was only asked about in regards to their marriage and his family as a whole was noted as it was a direct link to the incident. Michael and Courtney came off as heroes while the interviewer won praise for handling them with care and dignity and for asking tough but informative questions.

After the carjacking story died down Michael and Courtney had another issue to contend with- five very angry 20-year-old cousins. Emma Peterson and Hanna, Bryan, Paige, and Pete Smith were not going to be happy when they are finally told the news, news that they had known for two weeks now. Their family had ensured that nobody told them, and Michael had been careful to not reveal anything during his calls to his aunt.

The Smiths arrived in force as all but Nigel Smith were attending the investiture. The townhouse was large but suddenly got smaller as three adults, five 20-year-olds, two kids, a toddler, and a baby joined the staff, Michael, and Courtney. They were all staying for three days, with Michael and Courtney heading north for two days before heading south again.

When all were settled into their rooms, Michael and Courtney had them sit together to tell them that the two of them were expecting. Hannah and Paige gave them glares while Bryan and Pete tried to see if it was a joke. Karen finally told them "they really are ones to talk, tell him your news. Now. They don't deserve those looks especially from hypocrites."

Hannah and Paige blushed while Pete and Bryan looked down in shame. Hannah mumbled a soft "we are both pregnant. We are due at roughly the same time. We weren't careful in our celebrating Pete's birthday and we wound up with a present we can't open until late February or early March."

The two hugged Courtney while Michael grumbled "it figures, all three are coming out at the same time. We have to make a choice on names so we don't end up with the same." That set off Karen and Bradford while Ophelia smiled at the family taking a serious announcement so well.

Hannah was the first to speak, saying "Paige and I talked about it and the one who has a boy is naming him Harold. The one who has a girl is naming her Ophelia. And if both are boys the elder is Harold and the younger Alistair while if both are girls the older is Ophelia and the younger is Lillian."

Courtney was asked what she thought of for names. She blushed then admitted "Jaimie and Claire said it had to be John for a boy. Michael is the one who knew Uncle John the longest so he gets the honor. If it's a girl we have decided on Evelyn or Lillian. Both are family names for both sides of our families- grandma is Evelyn and her cousin was Lillian."

The ten were quiet after that, relaxing while Ethan and Nichole Smith talked with their friends and got caught up on the latest goings on in the city. They didn't care much for the wedding or baby talk, both just wanted to relax before enduring the long ceremony the next day at Buckingham Palace. It was going to be taxing for the family as they knew whispers would fly about their family especially the fact that both weren't "normal" kids due to Ethan being an orphan and Nichole transgender.

Neither were going, they were staying with Emma and "helping" babysit their brother Nigel and niece Sophia. Still, it was very nerve wracking regardless. Being before the queen did that to you even if you weren't the one who was kneeling before her as part of an ancient ritual.

Bradford got a phone call which led to him asking to speak with Michael. The call was straightforward, the palace wanted him there for the ceremony but something new had come up which required his presence as more than just family of two recipients. He had a strong feeling that Michael was being eyed for an award but which one was unknown, Michael didn't say anything further but knew that he was a guest now not just the guest of a honoree.

Michael was told that he would have to speak with some important people the next day. He didn't ask why he was being singled out but in his logical mind it had to do with either Walter or his dad. He was ready for anything but he hoped it was just for show and meant more for Bradford and Walter than for anyone else as he didn't want to upstage anyone on their special day.

The ride to the palace was done in two cars, with Michael and Courtney joining Bradford and Ophelia in the lead car. Emma drove the second car with the kids while the two couples drove in a third car with Karen. The three cars caught a few odd looks but smiles from the staff as Bradford was seen.

Bradford had been to the palace as a guest before and had known several of the royals since childhood so he was able to get noticed immediately and given a proper reception from the staff. The others had a frostier reception until Bradford introduced them to the steward handling them causing the staff to treat them as was fitting their rank. Michael's name and his relationship to both Karen and Walter got him and Courtney treated with the same level of respect while whispers about him got raised eyebrows.

Emma and the kids were herded off to a different area to wait out the reception. Nichole saw what it was for and didn't take offense to being excluded as they were watching it live while giving Nigel and Sophia a chance to not disturb the reception. They would join their mother and grandparents afterward.

The ceremony started with a briefing then followed by the families being led to the ballroom where Michael and Courtney were seated alongside the Smiths and Lillian. Bradford was to be seated with them after receiving his investiture so an empty seat was left for him down front. They were the first to arrive and had the luxury of talking with several of the staff, many in ceremonial uniforms and wearing their medals and sashes. Michael had never seen an event like this before, with Courtney feeling under-dressed in her simple dress but matching most of the non-uniformed ladies there.

Walter had talked to Michael for several minutes then saw Walter smiling as an attendant asked about him. Walter happily told him "he's my great-nephew, grandson of my oldest and dearest friend." The attendant walked off and whispered something to one ear then another and soon Michael had eyes on him as he was sized up by the staff with most now realizing he was not just a guest of the Smiths but was the actual guest of Walter.

In the ballroom, Ophelia explained "they know you are a VIP through both Walter and Bradford and actually are much more important than originally believed. They wanted to move you and Courtney to the rear behind the recipients' families but as family to two different recipients you are staying put. It's rare that they are wrong but it's something that they have dealt with before and will do so in the future."

Walter and Bradford had bright smiles as they awaited their time. Bradford was one of the few nobles to receive a knighthood that day but was the highest ranking. As a foreign dignitary, Walter was one of the first as well, and would do so after Bradford was knighted. They just happened to be the only recipients who knew one another and who had the most family at the ceremony.

The ceremony was exciting as the queen entered to the national anthem and was in a cheery mood. Michael was eyed by the handlers as he watched, once Bradford and Walter had been through he sat with respect and dignity as the others received their honors and politely clapped as they were awarded medals and knighted. As the last few were edging towards the ballroom Michael was tapped on the shoulder and asked to come with one of the attendants, with Courtney following behind him as well.

Karen was about to say something but Ophelia's smile told her to stay put, she would like what was to come next. Karen didn't move, she saw Michael and Courtney in the doorway behind the recipients and let out a smile as she realized what was going on. Michael and Courtney were about to be rewarded for what they had done at the park several days before.

The final recipients entered and received their accolades from Her Majesty who was told that there were new recipients added late at the request of the ministers. Michael and Courtney were led inside with Michael bowing and Courtney curtsying before the queen. She looked them over and offered her heartfelt thanks from the nation for the actions during the carjacking in saving the lives of four people as well as apprehending a fugitive.

Michael and Courtney were awarded the Queen's Medal for Gallantry for their actions. Normally it would take a while to be awarded such an honor but as they were already there as guests it made little sense to award it at a later time. The queen grinned as she pinned the medals on both, offering her gratitude for their actions.

Michael tried to remain humble but when she asked why he did it he admitted "it wasn't our choice to make but it was what needed to be done so nobody else would be hurt." She asked how he know what to do to which he smiled and admitted "my father and uncles are law enforcement officers so it was instinct and training. It's why they acted to save my future cousin and uncle when we were here three years ago and why they continue to help others in need to this day."

With that they were taken to a private ceremony for an audience with officials and the queen herself. It was a rare treat but their status necessitated the meeting. Emma and the kids joined them, having gotten taken by surprise by Courtney and Michael's awards and causing Ethan and Nichole to be speechless while Emma just smiled and added "always humble but still braver than all else.

Michael's words to the queen were asked about with Bradford having to explain about Nichole's assault three years before and how Michael had been part of it indirectly as the next line of defense should one of her attackers get through the four police officers helping them. His family's law enforcement connection was explained, with four uncles, his dad, his cousin, his cousins' cousin, and indirectly his aunt all being in law enforcement. His family was as close to a law enforcement family as you can get.

Somehow he had found himself the center of attention. Michael simply acted as if it was normal and tried to not make himself into a spectacle. After a bit Michael was finally shown off by Bradford who acted as a go-between and explained Michael's job, family, and future to those asking.

They were joined by Arthur, Charles, and Grace who were all there for Michael's award but were actually acting as his sponsors. It was Grace's testimony about his character and Charles' connections that got the police to sponsor him for the award. Charles was one of the top police officers in the Metropolitan Police Service and was well aware of Michael's family through helping smooth over the damage done three years before thanks to the unethical attempts to use the family as a media tool

Arthur and Grace grinned at Michael who tried to find the right words. Grace hugged him and kissed his cheek, thanking him for accepting the honor and for being the brave man who was more than a smart, talented young man. Arthur just shrugged it off, asking if he gave lessons in avoiding the spotlight or if he had his own entourage doing that for him. That calmed Michael, which was what Arthur had wanted to do all along.

Michael and Courtney were the center of attention as they were given thanks from the government and as family of the ambassador were sent thanks in writing from the Prime Minister herself. She wasn't too happy that he had gotten honored as his family wasn't seen as one to be honored but Walter was proud to tell her off for her idiocy and using her office to insult someone who was a value to her nation. She was forced to bite her tongue and endure the annoyance, her rivals within her party and the opposition were all latching onto Michael and it was felt she would lose a lot if she continued to insult him.

Her majesty entered and asked Michael to come forward. She asked if he was aware of his family being citizens of the UK despite having lived in the US for decades. Michael looked at Karen who smiled and turned to Walter who blushed and told the stunned Michael "your great-grandfather was from Scotland. Your grandfather, Brent, was born in Boston but your paternal family is British."

Michael shook his head and said a soft "the Scotland trip. That's why it was so important. Grandpa's roots and dad's pledge were due Great-Grandpa Roland Finn's heritage. It was our legacy."

Michael asked what this was about, to which Her Majesty announced "as a citizen through paternal lineage, you are hereby awarded the right to post-nominal letters for your award. As this is now the second time you have shown bravery in the face of danger and having saved the lives of four citizens including a decorated constable, I am using my right as sovereign as the fount of honor dub thee Sir Michael Finn."

Michael knelt down and was touched on each shoulder by the queen's sword. He could not say a word, he was speechless. Karen and Courtney had tears in their eyes, while Walter had a big grin on his face to which he said a silent "that's for you, Brent. Your grandson has finally fulfilled your request. The Finns have touched their roots as you had always dreamed. Rest In Peace."

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