"I can't, sir. I just can't."
I was stunned. I had never thought this day would come - the day I saw Jack O'Neill
reduced to begging. His eyes twitched, flickering from side to side as if unable to
accept what he was seeing, the sweat already beading on his brow.
"Take a seat, son", I ordered, his pale face a warning I couldn't ignore. With a nod of
thanks, he did so. I glanced at the phone wondering if I should call Fraiser.
"I'm okay, sir." Despite his state, he was fully alert to my thoughts. "I don't need the
I nodded reluctantly and leaned forward, lowering my voice, making my tone as calm
as possible. "What's going on here, Jack?"
My Second raised a shaking hand to his face, scrubbing it over his eyes as if trying to
clear them, and, with mounting horror I saw moisture beading in the corners.
What could possibly reduce the man before me to tears?
"I..." He stuttered to a stop, his throat moving convulsively as if swallowing, his face,
unbelievably becoming whiter. "I can't be in charge of his visit, General." His finger
tapped the papers on my desk, but I noticed that they stopped short of actually
touching the photo that accompanied the report.
"Care to explain, Colonel?"
He glanced up, and for a moment I saw something in his eyes that I couldn't
recognise, gone as it was, so quickly. His words were hesitant, his tone low. "I have a
confession to make. This is something I've never told anyone, sir, and I'm sorry that
you have to learn it like this."
"What is it, son?"
"I have coulrophobia."
What? He had what? My thoughts froze as I struggled to understand.
"Yes, sir. I can't show Kinsey around the base. I have a morbid fear of clowns."
Colonel O'Neill's lips twitched upwards in a hopeful smile, and I shook my head
"Sorry, Colonel. You're it. Now get out of my office and changed into Class As. The
senator arrives in an hour." With a great deal of difficulty, I managed to keep my tone
He stood, shaking his head. "Damn. Still, it was worth a try."
I waited until he shut my office door behind him before allowing myself to laugh.