Jim wanted to laugh.

It took considerable effort not to. The way his crew tiptoed around him, as if they expecting him to either give in to angry despair or break down and cry in front of them, just because of what the day represented. In fact, more than a few of them were walking into the Enterprise's walls as he passed because they were too preoccupied with examining his face for the tell-tale signs of emotional breakage to pay attention to where they were going.

His crew was brilliant, and Jim was more than a little proud of them, but Christ he thought they were smarter than this.

As if he'd ever be that transparent.

The first assumption, the one of him giving in to angry despair, could be understandable. That's if one had never met him before, or even heard of him in passing, or knew a friend of a friend of a friend who knew him and his thoughts on despair. Oh hell no, despair came too close to 'giving up' in his book.

Or, he supposed, their assumption might be logical if any of them were at all familiar with his grieving process and his tendency to take any death under his watch as a personal, unforgivable failure.

Which, they weren't. Good God no.

Jim wasn't one for public spectacles, they were too… unsettling. Spock wasn't the only person capable of keeping things close to the chest, so to speak. Contrary to popular belief, Vulcans didn't actually have the monopoly on evasive (although Jim supposed there was no harm in letting them believe that they did).

But of his crew, only Spock and Bones had ever seen him grieve. The latter because he threatened to 'suggest counseling on record should a certain captain not open this goddamned door right this instant, you stubborn jackass' and the former because he was a sneaky bastard who had been waiting in Jim's quarters before Jim had got there the last time they had lost a crew member. And he had sat there, watching Jim with those big, brown eyes, until Jim had felt vulnerable and exposed and he confessed to Spock that maybe he wasn't cut out to be captain after all.

The memory of Spock's reply, 'if you didn't mourn the loss of a life, only then would I worry,' was a defining one… it was the moment Jim had fallen in love with his First Officer. The exact moment he'd gone from 'this guy is a great first officer and he's turning out to make a pretty good friend' to 'my god, the lighting in this cabin does really amazing things to Spock's hair, and wow, that brain is pretty amazing, I want to pick at it forever.'

But his manly little crush on his First Officer, better known as his sassy Confucius sidekick (a moniker Spock stoically bore, i.e. loathed, but had Bones rolling in stitches every time Jim said it) aside…

The second assumption his crew made, that this day, of all days, would have him weeping through the halls, was just ridiculous and also downright insulting. Oh to him, there was no shame in crying, and as the child of a single mother, he refused to give into antiquated gender stereotypes which dictated otherwise. No, the insult was to that of his father's memory.

For George Samuel Kirk: hero, father, and officer, Jim had his own mean of showing respect on the anniversary of his death, and there was no place for tears in it.

Yes, he regretted that someone who, by all accounts, had been a good man, a great man even, had died way too damn young and due to such unfortunate circumstances. Regretted that his mother and his long-lost brother had mourned George Kirk's passing with every fiber of their beings for as long as Jim had known them. Even regretted never having had a father (as much as one could miss something they had never had). Such circumstances were somber, and deserved respectful contemplation, of course they did.

But Winona Kirk, for all her faults: her workaholic tendencies, her desire to avoid emotional confrontation thus allowing her brother, Frank, to terrorize both Jim and Sam during their youth rather than tell the son-of-a-bitch off, had been absolutely adamant about one thing…

The day of Jim's birth was to be hailed as a celebration of life, not an opportunity to mourn its fleet and fickle passing.

'Your father gave his life so that we may live, Jimmy. I think we owe it to him to do just that. To live life to its fullest, to enjoy each and every day. Don't ever let anyone tell you different. You were our gift, our miracle baby, an infant determined to make his presence known despite all that was going on around him. Your father would have gotten a kick out of you, don't ever think otherwise. Happy birthday, son. I've got some time off today with your name written all over it, let's go on an adventure.'

True the 'adventure' had been a trip to Bill's ice cream parlor then a tour of the shipyard they were building in Riverside in his father's name, but the lesson in it had been far more poignant.

His father had died so that Jim may live, thus Jim considered himself honor-bound to live enough for both of them.

As a youth, celebrating life for both of them meant he got two ice cream cones instead of one, and in replace of a healthy dinner, bless guilt-ridden mothers. As an adult…

"The doctor informed me that I am to monitor your activities for the day. He is under the impression you are likely to do something… unfortunate considering what this day represents," rang the beloved voice of his First, the Vulcan standing like a sentry in front of the door to Jim's quarters, one elegant eyebrow raised and arms crossed as if to say 'there will be no illogical behavior on my watch, just so you're aware. Go on, just try to act in a way I deem imbecilic and see where it gets you. I dare you.' "An action, perhaps, that carries a high probability of harming, maiming or otherwise scarring your person, thus contributing to the decline of his, and mine, assurance of your safety and emotional well-being,"

For a moment Jim was too touched to be irritated. Which he blamed fully on these unrequited feelings he had for Spock, of course.

Idiotic thing, attraction. It truly put a damper on the need to let loose a good and deserved rant. But duty was duty and he owed his dad some living. Spock AND Bones needed to come to grips with that.

"Ah but Spock," Jim said, keeping his voice light as he breezed past Spock and into his quarters, the Vulcan hot on his tail (Spock took his sentry duty with the seriousness he took science, like he had to give it his all or die trying), "I'm due for an adventure."

… And the planet they were conveniently orbiting for shore leave (well, not so much convenient as Jim had planned this well in advance) had plenty of mountains just waiting to be climbed. And, better yet, this particular mountain range had yet to be touched by a human hand (there was a reason for that, they were pretty intimidating but nothing Jim couldn't handle), thus the day would grant a two-for, it would break records, and provide a thrill or two for the effort.

Jim doubted there'd be a minute of it where he didn't feel blessedly alive.

The look on Spock's face though, as they came to stand in the center of Jim's quarters, that look that said, without saying "I doubt I'll ever understand fully how human ancestry survived long enough to learn to walk upright" did, however, serve to put a damper on Jim's pre-adventure adrenaline high. Spoil sport.

The truly horrible thing about being in love, Jim thought, was the fear of disappointing others. And Jim hated to disappoint Spock… perhaps more than he really should. It was enough to make Jim wonder why anyone bothered with the whole love thing at all. But then Spock tilted his head, and he glanced at Jim in that inquisitive way of his, and Jim felt himself remembering, 'oh yeah, that's why, Spock looks positively irresistible like that' and he'd fall in love anew.

Jim thought it rather magical on Spock's part; Bones would call it an early sign of dementia. Reality was probably somewhere in-between.

"Yes, the doctor has informed me of your tendency to use your birthdays as an excuse to engage in inadvisable activities," Spock announced, his tone more obvious in its disapproval.

"I don't doubt he did," Jim muttered under his breath, already plotting his revenge on his CMO.

And for that matter, for two people who made an Olympic sport out of ribbing each other, the way Spock and Bones did, they sure managed to work together exceedingly well when it came to combining forces and ganging up on him. Jim often wondered if either of them remembered that not only was he an adult, thank you kindly, but he was their fucking boss. Not that either of them let that hold them back. Ever. Why bother giving nods to a little thing like rank when there were opinions on Jim's life choices to be voiced?

Jim was sure he didn't know why he was so destined to attract the affection of those who received more than their fair share of goods in the stubborn department.

That he, himself, was stubborn was completely inconsequential, of course. Captain's prerogative.

"We have experienced many adventures since the start of our mission eighteen point three months ago," Spock said, his tone growing more.. gentle. Retrospective.

Jim eyed him suspiciously, wondering where this was going and not putting it past Spock to try and lull him with a false sense of security. He agreed, reluctantly, "Ye-es, this is certainly true."

"And during that time you have offered me your hand in friendship. Have assisted me through my grief over my mother, and those of my kind now lost to us. Have encouraged me to embrace both my human and Vulcan heritage," Spock continued, and Jim felt himself blush at the blunt listing of actions he'd undergone to get close to Spock, to know him, to be his friend, to create a team with him, and to unintentionally fall in love. Spock was worth every effort, of course, a million times over. Spock was beyond remarkable. He only wished Spock saw that. Jim had been trying to build up the guy's damaged self-esteem since he had befriended him. "Every day with you has been an adventure."

Jim swallowed over the lump rapidly developing in his throat, moved. Probably beyond what would be considered manly recognition. Not that he cared. Spock had just complimented him. Spock. That had to be the best birthday present anyone had ever given him.

He didn't quite know what to say to that… Jim Kirk, at a loss for words? Bones would never believe it. Jim could scarcely believe it himself.

But… well, wow.

"I understand your drive to experience things, to feel them," Spock continued, obviously gaining momentum. "You make me want to feel more, to experience more. So I thought I might offer an alternative arrangement to your plans for the day. An adventure of a different nature. One that I might experience with you, just as precarious but perhaps more advantageous for us both."

"I'm listening," Jim choked out, heart racing. And while his words were not the "A new adventure? With you? Yes, yes, tell me!" that his brain was currently shouting, he figured Spock was lucky he'd managed those four syllables at all considering Jim's tongue-twisting anticipation.

And Spock took one step closer to him, then two, then another until he was standing scant inches away, his warm breath on Jim's face, his body radiating energy that Jim was certain he could feel crackling against his own skin.

"I believe the phenomenon is called… falling," Spock whispered, nudging closer yet.

"Spock, I've been doing that for ages," Jim breathed, the confession almost involuntary, but he didn't regret it. Spock should know he was cherished, especially since Jim now had a certainty that his feelings were reciprocated.

And because he felt almost too overcome, too moved - a whirlwind of emotional turbulence that was both wonderful and frightening - he teased, "it is very considerate of you to finally join me" because Spock ought to know, fully, just who he was getting out of this deal.

Spock was lit with unmistakable affection, and Jim felt his entire body go warm, "You have never been alone on this particular journey, Jim, I have been with you every step of the way."

And when Spock's lips met his, all firm, and sure and wanting, Jim felt truly, remarkably alive. More than that, he felt invincible.

Leave it to Spock to initiate Jim's greatest adventure yet.

He was certain his father would have approved.

The End!

Written in honor of Dracavia's birthday. :)