Harold had never had any particular interest in flowers.
They were, he supposed, interesting to look at, at least in passing, but beyond that, he gave them very little thought.
He'd bought them for Grace sometimes, she liked them. Sometimes, he'd bring her a bunch home and she'd sit in front of them and paint them.
She didn't often paint things like flowers, but she seemed to enjoy the exercise.
After Grace, he'd had no one to buy flowers for and so hadn't bothered to think about them, except perhaps in an abstract way, if he passed a flower shop, he might glance at them and think they were pretty. He never stopped to give them more than a glance though.
It was therefore, somewhat of a surprise to find a few stems of lavender in a jar of water, on his desk, when he entered the library that morning.
There were really only a couple of people who could have left them, only a couple of people who could have accessed the library, since his most recent security updates, without tripping the alarm.
As he doubted Miss. Shaw was particularly interested in flowers, that only left one.
But as to why John would have left him flowers, he had no idea.
He didn't ask, although he was tempted. If John had meant to talk about it, he'd have said something. As he'd left them in 'secret' Harold assumed he wasn't required to give a response.
He did keep them though.
It was nearly a fortnight later, when another floral gift arrived.
The lavender had died, because Harold knew nothing about how to care for flowers, but he hadn't gotten around to throwing out the jar.
And there it was, front and center, full of water again and holding daffodils.
Harold pondered the flowers for most of a day, the machine was silent for once and he'd told John just to take the day, when he'd come in. But other than attempting to ask John why he had no idea what to say or do. If indeed anything.
It was only when another week later, yellow tulips were sitting in place of the daffodils, that he thought – much to his embarrassment, Miss. Shaw, had to nudge him towards the solution – to look the flowers up. To see if they had some significance he was missing.
Lavender, was admiration and solitude, which he supposed, could make sense.
Harold was nothing if not solitary and he knew they admired each other.
Quite why John would choose to frame the sentiment with flowers, Harold didn't know, but it did make sense.
The daffodils were slightly more complicated. They appeared to have multiple meanings. Regard; Unrequited Love; You're the Only One; The Sun is Always Shining When I'm with You.
Harold chose almost immediately to assume John intended them to mean regard. That made the most sense, certainly the others... well, John didn't see him that way.
At least, he had no reason to think so.
Not until he'd looked up the meaning of yellow tulips. There's Sunshine in Your Smile. Hopeless love.
Harold was... quietly stunned.
Did John have... a romantic interest in him?
Surely not. Harold must simply be reading too much into things. They were all spring flowers, it was spring. John probably just wanted to brighten the library up.
Harold closed the half a dozen browser windows he'd had open in his search for flower meanings and convinced himself he was mad for ever thinking John could see him like that.
It was simply impossible.
But the flowers kept coming.
Stock, Bonds of Affection; Promptness; You'll Always Be Beautiful to Me.
Daisy, Innocence; Loyal Love; I'll Never Tell; Purity
Iris, Fleur-de-Lis, Emblem of France: Your Friendship Means So Much to Me; Faith; Hope; Wisdom and Valour; My Compliments
As the season changed from spring to summer, the flowers changed with them, but Harold could no longer deny the meaning.
He just didn't know how to respond.
He cared for John. Deeply. More deeply than he had cared for anyone since Grace and Nathan. And he certainly couldn't deny there was more than the smallest aspect of... attraction. Romantic and sexual.
But would acting on that damage their friendship?
Then there was the numbers... they were so important and it would change how they worked together...
And then there was Grace. He still loved her. Knew he could never stop.
It kept Harold thinking about it for weeks, amongst the small deliveries. And the whole John never said a word, never behaved any differently...
That was what finally decided him. John had been delivering flowers for nearly three months and it hadn't changed anything, not really.
It was a risk of course, but... after he received Zinnia - vividly magenta in colour - lasting affection, he was certain it would be a risk worth taking.
He had gained so much in loving Grace and while he could never go back, he felt certain she would want him to find that again. And Harold was certain John would understand how he still felt for her. After all, John still loved Jessica, even now.
The only thing he didn't know, was how to tell John that he had recognise his messages and was... willing, interested.
In retrospect, it should have been obvious, but it had taken him a further two weeks – and a bunch of violets – to actually think of it.
Once he thought of it however, he knew exactly what to do.
Harold said nothing, as John entered the library behind him, simply sat at his desk, idly flicking through code, but not really taking any of it in.
He realised the exact moment John saw the single red rose, nestled amongst his gift of violets and waited, with baited breath, to see what his response would be.
"I wasn't sure you understood what they meant," John said quietly.
"I didn't at first. I... confess, it is not the sort of declaration I would have expected from you," Harold replied, just as softly.
"I didn't know how else to say... I thought this way, if you didn't want to know, you'd just ignore it."
Harold turned around, to face John, standing only a few feet away, looking distinctly unsettled.
"Perhaps, now that we are both... speaking the same language, we might... have dinner? Tonight, if the numbers allow it?" Harold offered.
John's smile was many things, relieved, chief amongst them.
"I'd like that Harold."
Harold returned his smile. "As would I."