Title: Fries
Series: Food Diaries
Author: BrusselsSprout
Pair/Rating: J/D, PG
Spoilers: does it matter at this point?
Disclaimer: Not mine. Just playing.

Notes: J/D - Josh's POV. The idea for this fic occurred to me while watching WTWYA. There is very little in the way of J/D in this episode, but there is a moment where they sit across from each other on the bus and appear to be sharing food. It was just an oddly comfortable moment considering the unresolved ending of The Cold.

French fries were the first food they ever shared. It was their second night in Charleston, and they were working late. He had ordered some hamburgers and fries. She insisted that she didn't want any food.

They were sitting in his makeshift office, sifting through piles of polling data. Josh was explaining the importance of the numbers and Donna was making tidy little index cards of the salient details using colour codes for issues and voter groups. She reminded him watching Joanie one afternoon a lifetime ago, sitting at the kitchen desk with markers of all the colours of the rainbow, preparing a school project, sticking her tongue out in concentration, trying to ignore her little brother pestering her to play with him.

Josh noticed with amusement that Donna was picking fries out of his plate. She seemed unaware of what she was doing, like it just came naturally. There was an intimacy to eating from someone else's plate that usually didn't happen after 48 hours of knowing each other. Still, Josh kind of liked that the quirky girl that waltzed into his life and appointed herself as his assistant felt at ease with him.

At first he was surprised at himself that he even considered giving her a job, as she seemed pretty flaky with her many majors and her fake confidence, but underneath the craziness, there was something else, a quiet determination, pride, and desperation for a second chance. Someone unwilling to give up faith that people tend to be good, rather than evil, against all evidence to the contrary. A faith that prompted her to jump in her car and drive the 1000 miles in search of something to believe in, instead of settling for a giant tub of ice cream, some booze and a near-lethal dose of romance movies like most heart-broken girls her age would. He couldn't bear to shatter that faith. There was something pure about her desire to affect change in the world while making a clean start, an innocence that he thought he had lost long ago, jaded by his years of DC politics. But when he looked at her, he felt a glimpse of it, and it seemed like something worth clinging to. So he went to Leo, and convinced him to squeeze her into the Charleston trip on a probationary basis.

'Donna, you know, you're eating my fries?' his voice was full of fake indignation.

'Well, they are bad for you. So I'm only trying to keep you healthy. If I eat half of them, they are only half as bad for you.' She shot back at him. No amount of Ivy League education had prepared him to come up with a witty answer to that.

'Ok'. He said lamely.

'You should explain to me why we care so much about the voter preferences of white males.'

'Or, you could just write down the numbers I tell you.'

'Sure, but then you'd lose the opportunity to hone your argument for tomorrow's staff meeting.'

'And you wouldn't be able to steal most of the fries while I'm talking. Don't think that I didn't catch onto your devious plan.'

'I'm just looking out for you.' she said with a toothy grin.

He smiled back and started an impromptu lecture about the importance of independent voters and realized that explaining things to her was indeed giving him clarity; it was an anchor to the everyday reality that needed to be remembered. The truths and issues that were simple and fundamental at once, just like French fries.

They were now hundreds of French fries later, some are memorable, some are forgotten. And of course, there were those bleak months when no one picked at his French fries, and he never seemed to be able to finish his plate. After a while he just stopped ordering them.

When Lou hired her, they just didn't know how to talk again. They couldn't keep up a conversation without one of them snapping or making a hurtful comment. They knew too well how to hurt each other. So he kept avoiding her, even though he noticed that she was trying to patch things up. One night, when he was in the hotel diner working late, munching on a charred burger and some fries, she came in. She hesitated a little before sitting down across from him.

'How did it go?' He asked.

'The Congressman did really well. God, I'm fried and starving. Do you think the kitchen is still open?'

'No. They were already closing when I ordered' He said and then he pushed his plate of fries towards the middle of the table as a postmodern peace-offering and kept reading, watching her from the corner of his eye. She wordlessly picked up a piece and opened her organizer to go through the next day's schedule. They ate in silence, which for the first time in a long while wasn't frosty and uncomfortable. So that's how healing starts, he thought, with a plate of French fries.

And now four days before the election, he is sitting in the utter chaos of the campaign bus with a phone on his ears. When he looks up, he realizes that she's sitting across from him immersed in some conversation on her mobile, and they absent-mindedly pick French fries from the same plate. He has no idea how the plate had got there, or how long he has been sitting there in the limbo of being on hold with Russell. Everything is hazy, his brain is in a fog of sleepless nights, his blood has long been replaced by caffeine from too much coffee, and he's running on adrenaline only. But sharing the plate with her gives him a moment of peace, a moment of sanity. It feels good, comforting even. Then he shifts his legs and their knees touch; desire rushes over him and he feels a tingling of anticipation. He's certain it's going to happen soon. They crossed the line with that sweet kiss and he doesn't think either of them would be satisfied to leave it like that. It will all change soon. And the thought terrifies and excites him in equal amounts. Soon, he thinks, as he forces himself to focus on the myriads of tasks at hand. For now, they have finished the French fries.