ἀρετή, ἡ, goodness, excellence in any art
"I endeavor to be accurate"
–"Errand of Mercy"

Contrary to popular opinion, Vulcans do grow tired.

Contrary to popular opinion, Vulcans do grow tired of study and research.

Contrary to popular opinion, Vulcans do grow tired of being expected to be perfect with respect to their study and research.

It was nearing the end of gamma shift, and even as he worked, the words went around and around in Spock's mind. He had been working two shifts on and one shift off for three weeks now, and he had no desire to work his second shift before he took time for some rest and meditation.

Spock's grueling schedule did not comply with regular procedure, but there had been an outbreak of a highly contagious bacterial infection of the lungs, with symptoms similar to those of pulmonary anthrax, in the science labs. Some inexcusably incompetent ensign's inability to follow normal safety procedures while working with newly discovered, potentially hazardous biological materials, had sent twenty-eight scientists to sick bay, and necessitated that twenty-five more work to find some way to slow the progress of a disease that could be fatal. If the U.S.S. Enterprise had been near a starbase when the outbreak occurred, this might not have much mattered, as Dr. McCoy had managed to discover a cure for this previously unknown disease within several hours of its discovery. However, one of the chemicals vital to the cure was nearly gone from the Enterprise's depleted stores. They did not have enough to manufacture medicine for all the scientists who had been infected. The ship had been several hundred lightyears into previously uncharted territory when the infection broke out, and they were still a 7.36 days' journey at maximum warp from any Federation civilization. The disease, it seemed, was under control, but until it could be eradicated, the science department would be seriously understaffed.

Spock, of course, did his part to substitute for the scientists who were out of commission. The Science department was his responsibility, and even though he had been able to identify the delinquent ensign, that ensign was too ill even to be reprimanded for his unconscionable error, much less able to do anything to correct it, so that task fell to Spock. All the scientists were taking on extra loads, but Spock, as head of the department, and as a Vulcan, was doing far more.

And so it was that at the end of gamma shift Spock was bending over his scanner, feeling the cold of the human-normal ship's temperature in a way he rarely did; feeling the strain on his lower back from bending at such an awkward position in a way he rarely did; and feeling the burn in his dry eyes as he looked into the blue light of the scanner in a way he never had in his experience on the Enterprise. He had another full shift to work when this ended in 26.8 minutes, and as much as he hated to admit it — in fact he never would admit it to anyone but himself — he was exhausted, not to a state of collapse, but to a state of supreme irritability.

The oddest aspect of this particular feeling of irritability was that it was directed at none other than himself. Irritation at Dr. McCoy was a feeling not unknown to him. Irritation at inept crewmembers was a feeling . . . admittedly, it was a feeling he had known he would struggle against when he agreed to serve on a ship manned almost exclusively by humans. But to irritate oneself? That was illogical.

Why was he irritated at himself, then? The bridge crew had just spent several hours navigating a dense asteroid field, and he had been providing Sulu, who was at the helm, with very precise information regarding locations, density, trajectory, etc. of the asteroids in their near vicinity. Now they were out, and his human half did not want to continue making such accurate calculations.

He had used all the logical arguments he knew to convince himself otherwise. He had reminded himself of the stories that he had been told as a very young Vulcan, about ships that had been destroyed due to human negligence in calculations. A Vulcan, he had been warned, should never — would never — make such an error, because to do less than accurate work was illogical. He had appealed to his own pride as a Vulcan. What if his information was transmitted to the Intrepid, and some of the Vulcans there saw it, and recognized its inaccuracies? Three of its crewmembers had twitted him as a child about his half-human heritage. It would never do. But neither logic nor pride was enough motivation. Not even the memory of his mother's human proverb, "Anything worth doing is worth doing well," helped.

Captain Kirk walked in while he was giving Mr. Sulu the last reading of his shift. He heard perfectly, with his Vulcan ears, as Sulu then briefed Kirk on the situation. He took the few minutes while the captain read and signed status reports, to sit down, and close his burning eyes, and drink some of the water a yeoman had brought for him. He briefly considered requesting a few minutes to rest in his quarters, but, when he calculated the time he could be spared, he recognized that he would expend almost as much energy making his way to his cabin and back as he would recuperate in his room. It was not worth the trouble.

"Time to arrival at Starbase 6, Mr. Spock?"

He could just say seven days. He did not need to check their rate of travel, or the degree to which they diverged from their original course, to avoid the tail end of that asteroid field a few minutes before the captain came in.

Yet he was Vulcan. Vulcans were accurate.

But he was tired and irritated.

But it was expected of him to be accurate.

And then the mantra, running through his head again:

Contrary to popular opinion, Vulcans do grow tired.

Contrary to popular opinion, Vulcans do grow tired of study and research.

Contrary to popular opinion, Vulcans do grow tired of being expected to be perfect with respect to their study and research.

Habit won out in the end. He turned to the scanner and gathered his data. When he turned back to reply, he found that the captain was standing near his station, looking concerned.

"Spock? Are you…"

"7.435 days, Captain."

And then Jim smiled. It was that look of awe, bemusement, and affection that he received, now that he thought about it, every time he gave his captain a Vulcan-accurate reading.

"Thank you, Spock." Spock was about to turn back to his scanner, when he felt a warm hand on his arm. "Spock."

"Yes, Captain?"

"Are you sure you're alright? You've been working pretty hard over the past few weeks, and that must be taking a toll, even on you. I'm sure we can find someone else to take over if you're too tired right now."

"No, Captain. I do not need to rest. The average Vulcan has much more stamina than the average human."

Jim looked at him skeptically. "Are you sure? Even Vulcans must get tired of working — not to mention of performing to the standards of perfection that we humans have for them . . . or at least that we on the Enterprise seem to have for you, Spock."

Spock knew that Jim could tell when he was lying. He would not be able to put on a brave face to protect his Vulcan pride. For any other man on the ship he could, but not for his captain. And yet, as he opened his mouth to try (somewhat illogically) to convince Jim of the lie anyway, he realized that he did not have to do so.

Rational arguments had not been as motivational to him as they should to a Vulcan. But this irrational emotion — the warmth that he felt, that seemed to radiate, almost physically, from the man he was no longer ashamed to call a friend — this pleasure was enough to change his whole outlook. Now that he had the proper motivation, he found that he was a true Vulcan, and he could sustain another shift. In fact, if his captain asked him to play a game of chess afterwards, he might find that he did not need all of the hours of his free shift to meditate and recuperate. He looked Jim straight in the eye.

"Captain, I am not unduly tired. My duties on the Enterprise are far from onerous, and it is my honor and privilege to fulfill them."