Jim has started to notice an odd pattern of behavior for Spock.

It has happened enough times now that he isn't sure when exactly he began to pick up on it, but he knows when the whole thing really solidified into a conscious idea.

They had been asked to look into mysterious and fatal incidents taking place in a mining colony on Janus VI. A creature was destroying equipment and killing miners. Spock, through a combination of scientific curiosity and non-violent morality, wanted to try and capture the creature. Personally, Jim wasn't banking on getting that opportunity. It had been reported to spit highly corrosive acid, and had already killed about fifty people. The miners' substandard phasers weren't able to injure it, but Starfleet issue weapons stood a much better chance. Nevertheless, Jim wasn't going to risk losing people just because they'd handled a raging beast with the kid-gloves on.

The Away Team took to the mines to attempt to track it down before it could do any more damage. All throughout, Spock remained adamant that they should attempt capture. He even went so far as to undermine Jim's orders on the subject, and if it had been anyone else, that particular stunt would have earned him a trip back aboard the ship. But as it stood Jim was pretty sure that he would qualify as an enormous hypocrite if he accused Spock of insubordination. So, instead, all he did was briefly reprimand him to the tune of 'would you please refrain from contradicting my direct orders just now, thanks?'

Jim wasn't stupid, though. He decided to try and leave his first officer out of the actual search, just in case Spock got any crazy ideas and wound up getting his Vulcan self killed and everything, but the guy wouldn't have it. So instead he stuck with him as the team split into groups of two and made their way through the dark, rocky tunnels. They'd reached an impasse when they came to a fork in their passageway. But a brief consultation by Spock with their recorded map of the facility revealed that the two tunnels met up again some ways away. So, they decided to separate – if worst came to worst, they could always back-track. Jim took one side and Spock took the other, their communication lines open. Just in case.

He hadn't gone far before the tunnel collapsed behind him. The rumbling shook the mine ominously, dislodging hunks of dirt and stone as he staggered away from the falling tons of rock. Seconds later he heard Spock's sharp tones over the communicator, demanding his status. But he was fine – and as long as Spock's own tunnel hadn't caved in, they still had a way out. He just wouldn't be able to back-track anymore.

Still, they both agreed that it would maybe be a good idea to speed up the pace a little, especially since Jim was pretty sure he'd gotten a lungful of grit. His throat burned in agitation as he half-jogged through the unstable tunnel, but he pulled up short when he reached the cavern.

Oh. Shit.

"Hey, Spock?" he whispered roughly over the communication line.

"Captain?" Spock replied.

"You uh, you know that thing that we've been looking for?"

"The creature?"

"…Yeah," Jim replied, eyeing the gigantic stone monster which was quivering on the floor about ten feet away from him. "Well – and I could be wrong about this – I think it might have had something to do with that cave-in."

There was a momentary silence over the line. Then Spock's voice returned. "On what are you basing this hypothesis?" he asked.

Jim took a breath, shifting slightly on his feet and trying not to make any sudden moves. "Mostly I was inspired by the fact that it's, you know, right here now. Blocking the path. So either I have really shitty luck today, or good news! You were right about it probably being intelligent!"

He was trying to make light of the situation in order to avoid freaking out a little. Or a lot. The thing spit deadly, corrosive acid, after all, and he didn't exactly have much room to dodge with.

"I will be there as quickly as I can," Spock assured him, his voice taking on a sharpness which Jim had come to notice meant that he was now quite tense. "Take defensive measures. Kill it."

"…What?" he whispered incredulously into the communicator, never taking one eye off of the cavern's other occupant.

"Clearly the creature has deadly capabilities."

"Yeah, but Spock, it's not doing anything," he noted, marveling at his first officer's abrupt change in tune. It was true, too – the creature was just sitting there, looking kind of… miserable? "I think we might actually be able to catch it now."

"We cannot take that chance. If it chooses to make an offensive move, you will be unable to prevent injury. You must seize the opportunity to strike before that happens."

Jim had actually taken a moment to stare at his communicator, as if some kind of bizarre malfunction might explain why his cool, logical, peace-loving Vulcan scientist had adopted a 'kill-or-be-killed' mentality at some point between now and ten minutes ago.

Ultimately they had managed to discover more about the creature, and worked things out so that neither the alien life-form nor the mining colony had to suffer any more than they already had. Spock had been pleased with the results, and Jim had decided to, for a change, take the tactful route and not mention those several minutes where the man had been all for shooting first and asking questions later. It seemed distinctly uncharacteristic. But the more he thought about it, the more he had realized that, actually, this wasn't the first time something like this had happened. Spock seemed to have a bit of a killer instinct when it came down to the wire.

The odd thing was, Jim couldn't help but notice that… well… he seemed to be a wire. For some reason 'Serene Scientist Spock' always got shoved into the backseat by 'Ruthlessly Efficient Spock' whenever Jim's life was on the line.

He'd have chalked it up to crew loyalty and the idea that Spock would get like that whenever any Starfleet officer was threatened, but – frankly, that just wasn't true. Oh, Spock cared about all of their lives, that wasn't in question. He just didn't do a complete philosophical about-turn whenever one of them was threatened with harm.

Jim isn't sure what to make of this realization. He supposes it should worry him a little bit, but in truth, he actually kind of likes it. Getting Spock to show affection isn't easy. He has learned that it's futile to look for it in all the usual places, or to expect it to manifest in typical ways. But it is there, he knows, when he puts aside his human expectations and simply allows Spock to be Spock. He feels warmth at the idea that his friend, in his own, slightly convoluted way, 'freaks out' when he's in danger. He grows warmer still when he realizes that he knows Spock well enough now to recognize this.

Still, he does feel a little bit bad for this self-proclaimed alien god who has captured him on a planet with too much magnetic interference for the transporters to beam him out. Because the being does not realize that he neglected to account for a certain Vulcan first officer, orbiting far above their heads, who is now in command of some very impressive weapons systems. Nor does he realize that said first officer is more than intelligent enough to figure out that the source of the 'magnetic interference' is, in fact, a device located in a very auspicious domed building behind them.

So Jim looks his captor dead in the eye, and because he knows Spock as well as he does, he says: "I'm really sorry about your temple."

And then he ducks, because as the beam of orange-red light strikes the building, he wants to avoid getting a lungful of dust and grit this time around.