God I love this fandom. I posted my first story here, and I had six reviews within two days. Seriously, you people are amazing.

This fic is another Jim Kirk character study focusing a little bit more on the differences in his character pre- and post-the movie.

Without further ado:

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Heroism

Jim Kirk was a lot of things, but he was not a hero.

He was a brawler, an incorrigible playboy, and a petty criminal. He was also a genius, not that you'd realize it from talking to him. And he was an orphan, and had been pretty much forever.

His father died just seconds after he drew his first breath. His mother was still alive, at least physically. But in a very real sense, she didn't survive her husband's sacrifice.

It didn't help that Jim looked almost exactly like his father.

So Winnona Kirk ran away to outer space.

She wasn't dead but, in terms of her impact on her son's life, she may as well have been.

Frank, who raised Jim and his brother, hadn't exactly been the ideal father.

Sam had run away as soon as he was old enough, and Jim hadn't heard from him since.

The point of which was that Jim had a lot of issues stemming from his childhood.

He wasn't good at forming emotional attachments, or at letting people in and trusting enough to give them tools that they could later use to hurt him.

He had layers and layers of masks designed to keep anyone from getting too close; from seeing the real Jim; from expecting too much of him.

He read people well, and sometimes he took advantage of that; manipulated and used others for his own gain.

Not exactly heroic behavior.

He also had to deal with being the son of Captain George Samuel Kirk, who had given his life to save so many others; with being the man's final gift to the galaxy. People expected a great deal out of him because of it; far more than was fair to ask of such a young boy.

So he went in the opposite direction until no one expected much of anything from him.

Because George Kirk may have been a hero, but Jim Kirk was not.

But then he met a man who refused to be fooled by all of his carefully constructed shields: Captain Christopher Pike, who had taken one look at him—drunk, bleeding, barely conscious—and asked him, "Do you feel like you were meant for something better?" (1)

He wasn't the first person to have made such a suggestion, but he was the first one who made it about Jim.

With everyone else it had been about his father—"How can you betray his memory like that?"—or about the rest of the world—"You've been given such gifts, you owe it to the universe, to humanity, to yourself to do something with them."

But with Pike, it had been about him, and only him: "You could do more than this; be better than this. Don't you owe it to yourself to try?"

So he did try. He joined Starfleet.

Not for heroic reasons, but it was a start.

A little over three years later, he saved planet Earth and possibly the entire Federation and finally killed the monster who had stolen the childhood he should have had.

He was by no means done growing—perhaps he never would be—but he had taken several important steps.

He had let go of his past—he would never leave it behind completely, but now it no longer controlled him—and turned toward his future.

He had finally allowed himself to grow up.

Jim Kirk had never been a hero, but Captain James T. Kirk might be.

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1) A direct quote from the movie, by the way.

Well? What do you think?