Post-"The Pegasus Project."
Disclaimers: As with other fiction before it, as always, not mine. Just borrowed.
**** "Lt. Colonel John Sheppard: Listen, if McKay gives you a hard time, just...
Lt. Colonel Cameron Mitchell: Shoot him.
Lt. Colonel John Sheppard: Also, he's mortally allergic to citrus.
Lt. Colonel Cameron Mitchell: Really?
Lt. Colonel John Sheppard: [pulls out a lemon] I keep one with me at all times. It's just a comfort to know... it's there. [tosses it to Cameron]
Lt. Colonel Cameron Mitchell: That's good intel, thanks.
Lt. Colonel John Sheppard: Yeah." ****
After Lt Colonel Mitchell was convicted of attempted murder and reckless endangerment in the near death of Dr. Rodney McKay, Lt Colonel John Sheppard went on trial for being an accessory before the fact and conspiracy. He had finally stopped acting like an outraged innocent and blustering about jokes when it was made clear to him that Rodney had, in fact, nearly died and that he was rethinking his position in Atlantis.
When Sheppard gave Mitchell the lemon, he'd honestly thought it was hilarious. It had been such a odd relief to spend time with Mitchell and Carter, other officers in rank who understood command structures and the military code. He was fond of Rodney, mostly, but the man could complain. He'd picked up the lemon for a completely different joke, but he hadn't been able to resist giving it to Mitchell.
Looking back, he wasn't sure when he first had second thoughts, but he knew they didn't occur to him until McKay, Mitchell, and the lemon were gone. Damningly, he had actually gone to talk to Dr. Beckett and found out that Rodney wasn't kidding; the man really did have a serious citrus allergy. His guilty conscience and nagging unease, however, hadn't made him tell Carson what he'd done. He had decided to assume that Mitchell wouldn't actually do anything, would treat the whole thing as the joke it was. Right?
At the trial, Mitchell, now stripped of his rank, was brought into the courtroom in shackles. He testified that yes, Sheppard had told him that the lemon was a potentially lethal weapon in relation to Dr. McKay. He also testified that Sheppard had given him the lemon for the express purpose of keeping Dr. McKay "in line." He didn't bother to claim that he hadn't taken the information seriously. He had been told something was potentially lethal, had actually referred to the fact as "intel," and he hadn't done his most important job. He hadn't protected the civilian scientist from that potential harm; he had, in fact, actually put lemon juice in the man's bottled water, thinking how funny it would be to tell the man after the fact that he had drunk it and survived. Except McKay almost hadn't survived.
Mitchell hadn't even stayed in the room to see the immediate results. He'd tampered with the water and then walked away. If Samantha Carter hadn't been in the room, and, if Rodney hadn't been quite so paranoid, the man would have died. McKay actually carried an epinephrine pen in his many pocketed work pants, and Sam had been able to inject the drug quickly enough to get him stabilized and transported to the infirmary. It had taken a good half a day for the infirmary staff to believe that he would survive.
Carter, hovering in the infirmary, hadn't quite known what to think. She hadn't protested when Mitchell had actually brandished the lemon at Rodney, but she saw him turn pale and had begun to realize it wasn't a harmless joke. Although she wasn't actually charged with a crime herself, she knew that she could have stepped in and made sure that nothing untoward occurred, and she hadn't done that. When Rodney collapsed, she was the one who figured out that Mitchell had probably spiked the water, and she was the one who had kept the bottle for evidence. There had been no way for this incident to be covered up or treated as an accident.
It didn't help Mitchell at his own trial that he hadn't even bothered to follow up on McKay for several hours. He had gotten wrapped up in his duties, and he had only gone to seek out McKay when he was ready to spring the punchline of his joke. When he couldn't find McKay, he was quite annoyed. Just as he was working up to anger, Carter finally contacted him. From the infirmary. To tell him that McKay was stabilized.
Looking at Sheppard at the defendant's table at the court martial, Mitchell realized how he must look, how he must have been looking since the moment he received that call. Actually, he supposed he didn't look quite that bad; he, at least, had never tried to tell himself that he was Rodney's friend.