Straight on 'til Morning
When Jim Kirk was eight years old, he decided what he wanted to be when he grew up. Not an engineer like Mom, with her love of grease and oil and putting bits where they belonged so that machines would work. Not a scientist like Sam, who was fascinated by the little things swimming around under the microscope. Not a security officer like Dad, whose job it was to protect and plan and be suspicious to the point of paranoia where the safety of his commanding officers was concerned. Not Jim, though. He wanted to be an explorer.
It didn't take long for him to get tired of pretend expeditions along the creek bed or down the road; there was nothing new here. So one day he took his pocket money, some apples, and a sleeping bag and headed out to catch that elusive horizon. He walked for two days past golden-brown fields and tiny towns until the police found him and dragged him home again. His parents gave him a severe talking to, but he didn't seem to take any of it to heart: later, as they rubbed lotion on his burnt face, he gabbled happily about the frog he'd found in a ditch and the shiny rocks he'd brought back and the cloud that had looked like a castle, grinning like a maniac the whole while.
After that there was no changing his mind. Someday he was going to be a Starship captain and he was going to go exploring out there in the stars, where there were things better than creek beds and empty barns and where he'd have a whole crew there with him, just as eager to see what was under the next rock or around the next bend as he.
When Jim Kirk was thirty-four years old, he was given the Enterprise. The moment he saw her he fell in love; she was so much more to him than just a white chariot to convey him through the black of space. She was a companion and as he sat in the captain's chair and felt the vibrations of her engine through the deck under his feet, his heart thrummed to the same pulse. She also quickly became home to him, as familiar as that old Iowa farmhouse, full of friends and family and always waiting for his return at the end of the day.
He discovered more than planets and aliens and adventure out there exploring; he also found friends. Spock the logical Vulcan and McCoy the emotional human were the best companions he could have asked for. When he got into trouble, they protected him. When trouble got the better of him, they took care of him. And should any situation threaten to overwhelm him, they were there to offer their advice so that he could make the best decision possible.
Some days it looked like there wasn't going to be a happy ending, but somehow, against all odds, there always was. The ship and crew were his universe and he was able to save his universe from every threat it faced.
When Jim Kirk was fifty years old, he wasn't so sure if he believed in those happy endings anymore. He felt old and spent and that exploring was a game for the young. His beautiful Enterprise, his home, was outdated and tired. But when that ship was threatened, Kirk put on his reading spectacles and tackled that threat like it was the good old days. Unlike the good old days, not everyone came out alive. He will never forget the day he discovered that there were places he could not go. Never before had a barrier stopped him, until the day it mattered most and it was his best friend on the other side, dying. Every instinct begged to be able to hold Spock to him as though by sheer force of will and his own body he could somehow keep him there. Instead, he sat pressed up again a glass wall, centimeters away. Might as well have been light-years.
After that, he realized his priorities had changed. He further realized that this did not bother him. Exploring was still what he lived for, but without his friends—brothers—by his side, it didn't seem worth it. So when there was the tiniest hope that he might get Spock back, he sacrificed that home. In the end, a home is only worth the people who live in it.
Now Jim Kirk is fifty-six years old and he's saved civilization and his friends once again. He's sitting on the bridge of the Enterprise-A. During these past years, through more adventures and exploration, through good times and bad, she has become a home to him just as much as her predecessor was. Today is the day she will be decommissioned. As he sits, considering the order to return to space dock right away, he looks around the bridge. Montgomery Scott, Nyota Uhura, Pavel Chekov, Leonard McCoy, Spock: his family. Here they are together and here they will forever be in his memories, but now it's time to move on. Home is people, and though he will miss his ship, he knows now that she was never the most important thing: his crew, his friends, his family were.
He looks out at the stars and smiles. One more journey, for old times' sake.
Second star to the right, and straight on 'til morning.