A/N. Just a quick oneshot that wouldn't leave me alone. McGee finally realises something about Tony. I've never tried to get into McGee's head before, so feedback would be much appreciated. :D

"A centripetal force is that by which bodies are drawn or impelled, or in any way tend, towards a point as to a centre." – Isaac Newton


Probationary Special Agent Timothy McGee flopped down at his desk with a sigh. He hadn't slept for over forty hours, and exhausted though he was, he knew that sleep would not come easily tonight. After everything that had happened, McGee really wasn't in the mood to spend the evening alone. On any other day, that wouldn't have been a problem.

Ordinarily, if it had been a good day, he'd get out his typewriter, or switch on a videogame, and his own company would be enough. On a not so great day, he'd call up some friends, maybe go for dinner, or a beer or two. On a really bad day, he would inevitably find his space invaded by one 'Very Special Agent' Anthony DiNozzo, who would spend the evening breaking his stuff, devouring the contents of his refrigerator and generally driving him nuts. Despite McGee's protestations to the contrary, Tony's presence was usually a welcome distraction from whatever was on his mind. Often McGee hadn't even figured out how much he'd really needed the diversion until several hours after Tony had arrived. Well, today had been a really, really bad day, but this time, McGee was on his own. Tony DiNozzo was in the hospital, having narrowly survived being deliberately infected with pneumonic plague, and McGee had just returned from visiting him.

There are times in everybody's life where knowledge is a curse, and this was one of them. His background in biomedical engineering meant that McGee understood far more than he would have liked about what the disease had done to Tony's body. Even so, he had been shocked by the appearance of his friend. The blue lighting in the isolation chamber had made DiNozzo look far too much like a corpse, and the older man's painful, gurgling breaths left McGee in no doubt how much damage the bacteria had inflicted on Tony's lungs. Tim had to admit he had freaked out just a little, but, ironically, the whole thing would have been much worse had it not been for Tony himself. Despite the fact that he had been lying there, fighting for every breath, Tony was still, well, Tony. He wore the same cocky grin, told the same terrible jokes and spent a good deal of McGee's visit trying to perfect his Darth Vader impression. Without even realising it, Tim had found himself relaxing, simply enjoying Tony's company. He guessed he shouldn't be surprised really. DiNozzo could be a world class pain in the backside when he wanted to be, but when it came down to the wire, Tony always did exactly what McGee needed him to do, whether he appreciated it at the time or not. Well, McGee could really use Tony's company about now – Kate had clearly had the right idea when she had decided to stay at the hospital overnight.

McGee glanced around the bullpen, surprised to note that Gibbs' jacket was once again on the back of his chair. By the time McGee had arrived at the hospital, Gibbs had already left, and McGee had assumed that the older man had gone home to work on his boat, but clearly boat-building wasn't on the agenda tonight.

Glancing around to make sure the room was empty, McGee made short work of hacking into the security camera feed, and soon located his team leader. The older man was in the gym laying into a punchbag with a fury the like of which McGee had never experienced. As he continued to watch in guilty fascination, Gibbs stopped what he was doing and leaned his head on the punchbag, eyes closed. Tim was sure he could see blood on the surface of the man's bare knuckles. Clearly Gibbs was having his own issues with seeing his senior field agent so close to death.

It had not occurred to McGee before now that maybe he wasn't the only one who relied on Tony to hold everything together. He had only been with the team for a few months, but Gibbs and Tony had worked together for years. Why would it be so unusual if Gibbs, or even Kate, also experienced the unique 'DiNozzo' brand of support. Their team leader sure looked like he could use it about now.

Tim was suddenly left wondering how he had managed to underestimate his friend for so long. It was so easy to fall for the superficial, and to completely miss the fact that it was Tony who held the team together. It was Tony who Gibbs trusted to watch his six, Tony who stopped Kate from taking herself too seriously, Tony who was there to make sure McGee didn't have too much time to dwell on his mistakes, Tony who Abby would call in the middle of the night when she needed a friend. DiNozzo was far more than just a field agent. He was, McGee thought, a kind of centripetal force who drew them all towards him and held them firmly on the right path. He smirked slightly at the thought of how the senior field agent would react to such a description. His smile faded as his eyes once more came to rest on the security feed still playing across his monitor. Gibbs was once again attacking the punchbag with ferocity; he was going to do himself some damage if somebody didn't stop him.

Well, McGee thought, he wasn't Tony, but that didn't mean he couldn't apply some of the same principles. Making his way to the locker room, he quickly changed and made his way to the gym. Gibbs was still working out his aggression on the punchbag. McGee approached carefully.

'What do you want, McGee?' Gibbs asked without turning. McGee was sure he hadn't made a sound, and there were no mirrors in view, but somehow Gibbs had known he was there.

'I, uh…' he stammered. The older man turned to glare at him. He steeled himself and started again.

'I thought maybe we could continue that training session?' he asked hesitantly. Gibbs looked at him quizzically for a moment, then nodded. If he saw through the younger man's motive, he didn't mention it. McGee sighed with relief. He understood now that Tony's shoes were too big to fill, even for a short while, but the senior field agent would be back using them to kick McGee's butt soon enough. In the meantime, maybe this would provide both Gibbs and McGee with the distraction they so desperately needed.