Bones of Green and Hearts of Gold

Cover image for Bones of Green and Hearts of Gold: Non-Asexual Aro Stories by K. A. Cook. Cover features a tree landscape background with a grassy foreground, tinted to resemble the greens descending into golds hues of the allo-aro flag. A sun sits in the top right corner and a green banner, bearing text reading the author's name, sits at the bottom of the cover, surrounded by ivy leaves and trailing vines. The cover title is written in black handdrawn script with the words green and gold in their respective colours. A cross-hatching frame in the colours of the allo-aro flag surrounds the cover.A princess flees her betrothed in search of a witch willing to entrap her within a tower. Rowan yearns to be out and proud as an aromantic, but other people’s misapprehensions—and his own anxiety—hamper his quest. A woman expresses her wish for unfettered sexual intimacy, despite her mother’s desperate romantic expectations. For another pansexual, the route to freedom from amatonormativity lies in accepting monstrosity’s fur and fangs. Suki finds aromantic freedom inside the priesthood’s cloisters, but even a rebellious life leaves her at a loss when ministering to her own. And the words “allosexual aromantic” offer a struggling magician hope of a new road—but one not without its dangers.

Bones of Green and Hearts of Gold collects twenty fantasy and contemporary stories celebrating the many ways aromanticism need not always pair with asexuality.

Contains: Allosexual aros; aros without reference to sexual attraction identities; transgender and non-binary aros; queer aros; autistic aros; neurodiverse aros; loveless aros; aro magicians; and an aro great-aunt who won’t let death stop her from dispensing needed advice.

Links: PDF (read in browser)Patreon

PDF, EPUB and MOBI editions are available for download from Patreon.

Length: 86, 000+ words / 280 PDF pages.

Readers should note that this is a free aromantic fiction collection archiving several internet and previously-published short stories. Most stories contain allosexual aromantic characters as narrating protagonists and focus on allosexual aro experiences, but some depict protagonists who don’t define their attraction identity as anything but “aromantic”. Please expect non-explicit sex mentions and references in many stories, along with romance references, depictions of physical intimacy, and depictions of amatonormativity and aromantic/allo-aro antagonism.

Most stories in this collection will not be suitable for readers repulsed by casual sex references, depictions of sexual attraction or descriptions of physical intimacy.

Blurbs and specific content advisories are listed below. Each header link will also direct you to a page containing story length and alternate publication information.

Bones of Green and Hearts of Gold

Constance, princess of Blackvale, knows the duty of a summer-hearted heir: wed the prince, birth the child, symbolise her people’s prosperity and fecundity. Love, joyously and passionately, a man even she believes handsome and kind. But what if her heart can’t cast summer’s warmth? What if she feels solely the profane desires of skin and flesh? What if Blackvale’s crops wither and rot unripened because their future queen can’t—and won’t—bow to the nonsensical-seeming rule of seasons?

She knows only one way to avoid catastrophe, falsehood and marriage: surrendering herself to the Forest Witch. Not even for his daughter will the king risk angering the feared but necessary master of briars, protector of forests and abductor of women.

Constance expects a lifetime’s bondage to a dangerous witch, freeing her cousin to inherit Blackvale’s throne. The witch has other ideas…

Content Advisory: Depictions of and references to amatonormativity, allonormativity, aro and allo-aro antagonism, misogyny, and sex negativity (particularly as it overlaps with misogyny). This story makes the use of colour/seasonal metaphors that do not fully correlate to our understandings of a-spec identity and (intentionally) fail to include all a-spec identities. It also takes place in a culture of general allosexual alloromantic privilege where a-specs of all identities experience (non-identical) shapes of marginalisation. Please expect descriptions of physical intimacy, kissing and sexual attraction along with the usual fantasy fare of death mentions and references to violence.

Monstrous

A world where sexual attraction sans alloromantic attraction takes on fangs and teeth–and a pansexual’s aro liberation means accepting monstrosity.

Content Advisory: Depictions of amatonormativity and allo-aro antagonism, along with romance and love mentions, attempted kissing/kissing mentions, physical intimacy and casual sexual attraction mentions.

This story uses the expectation of romantic attraction as a metaphor for what is seen to make one human to reflect and explore amatonormativity and the way allosexual aromanticism is feared as predatory. Please expect a piece that leans into this construct of allo-aro-as-monster and does not consider how this metaphor may apply to non-allosexual aros.

The Vampire Conundrum

When Rowan Ross is pressured into placing an aromantic pride mug on his desk, he doesn’t know how to react when his co-workers don’t notice it. Don’t they realise he spent a weekend rehearsing answers for questions unasked? Then again, if nobody knows what aromanticism is, can’t he display a growing collection of pride merch without a repeat of his coming out as trans? Be visible with impunity through their ignorance?

He can endure their thinking him a fan of archery, comic-book superheroes and glittery vampire movies. It’s not like anyone in the office is an archer. (Are they?) But when a patch on his bag results in a massive misconception, correcting it means doing the one thing he most fears: making a scene.

After all, his name isn’t Aro.

Content Advisory: This story hinges on the way most cishet alloromantic people know nothing about aromanticism and the ways trans-accepting cis people fail to best communicate their acceptance. In other words, expect a series of queer, trans and aro microaggressions. There are no depictions or mentions of sexual attraction beyond the words “allosexual” and “bisexual”, but there are non-detailed references to Rowan’s previous experiences with romance.

The Pride Conspiracy

December isn’t the best time of year for a trans aromantic like Rowan Ross, although—unlike his relatives—his co-workers probably won’t give him gift cards to women’s clothing shops. How does he explain to cis people that while golf balls don’t trigger his dysphoria, he wants to be seen as more than a masculine stereotype? Nonetheless, he thinks he has this teeth-gritted endurance thing figured out: cissexism means he needn’t fear his relatives asking him about dating, and he has the perfect idea for Melanie in the office gift exchange. He can survive gifts and kin, right? Isn’t playing along with expectation better than enduring unexpected consequences?

Rowan, however, isn’t the only aromantic in the office planning to surprise a co-worker. To survive the onslaught of ribbon and cellophane, Rowan’s going to have to get comfortable with embracing the unknown.

Content Advisory: This story focuses on some of the ways Western gift-giving culture enables cissexism and a rigid gender binary, taking place in the context of commercialised, secular-but-with-very-Christian-underpinnings Christmas. There are no depictions or mentions of sexual attraction beyond the words “allosexual” and “bisexual” and a passing reference to allo-aro antagonism, but there are non-detailed references to Rowan’s previous experiences with and attitudes towards romance and romantic attraction as a frayromantic. Please also expect depictions of physical intimacy along with casual references to amatonormativity and other shapes of cissexism.

Abrasive

Spending Midsummer night with a pretty man shouldn’t be a problem for Suki … except for everybody else’s romantic expectations.

Content Advisory: This piece describes the amatonormativity common to allo-aros where casual sexual experiences are presumed to lead to or develop into romantic relationships–an assumption often reinforced by people outside the relationship. Please expect sex references, arousal references, depictions of physical intimacy and depictions of sexual attraction, along with sex-negative (slut-shaming) comments made by the character’s mother.

The Complexity of Human Decency

When Mama Lewis continues to browbeat Suki into becoming the kind of girl who doesn’t tick off unwanted romantic suitors, she knows the best thing to do is leave. The port city of Malvade offers work enough to pay for her own room, but Suki’s freedom comes with long hours, a leaking roof, outhouse mould and a yearning for a world that offers her more than bare subsistence and continued disregard.

A red-robed priest of the Sojourner may hold answer and opportunity … if only she can endure a conversation with someone preaching a truth anathema to everything a proud woman of Freehome should believe.

Content Advisory: This piece references the amatonormativity common to allo-aros where casual sexual experiences are presumed to lead to or develop into romantic relationships, along with the ways these assumptions fuel and justify the protagonist’s mothers’ emotionally abusive behaviours. This story also has Suki referring to herself with the misogynistic term “bitch”.

If Absurd Works

An unexpected letter sees Suki of Sirenne, a red-robed priest of the Sojourner, doing the unimaginable: returning home to farewell a dying Mama Polly. After ten years of studying the ways of Spoken Service, she’s built a life that serves her nature … even if she’s still inclined to a sharp turn of phrase. Can’t she now explain her feelings and choices in ways easier for Mama Lewis to accept? Shouldn’t her mothers now be easier to manage?

Yet one conversation leaves Suki feeling that she’ll never stop being the brittle, abrasive young woman who left Freehome … and presents her a problem only solvable by remembering priesthood’s first lesson.

Content Advisory: This piece references the amatonormativity common to allo-aros where casual sexual experiences are presumed to lead to or develop into romantic relationships, along with the ways these assumptions fuel and justify the protagonist’s mother’s emotionally abusive behaviour. It also depicts the pressuring and manipulation present in emotional abuse, including use of one’s love as a silencing tactic. Suki refers to herself and her mother, in the process of reflecting on their similarities, with the misogynistic term “bitch”.

Leaving

A pansexual aromantic endures their alloromantic partners’ expectations of casual sexual relationships evolving into romance–until they find another aromantic.

Content Advisory: Depiction of amatonormativity and expectation of romance in sexual relationships. Please note that this story contains the use of a misogynistic, sex-negative slur more often targeted at allo-aro and multisexual folks.

When Quiver Meets Quill

Alida Quill is just fine spending hir holidays alone with a book if it means freedom from hir family’s continued expectation to court and wed. When hir co-worker Ede sets hir up with a friend and won’t take no for an answer, Alida plots an extravagant, public refusal scene to show everyone once and for all that ze will not date. Ever.

Ze doesn’t expect to meet Antonius Quiver, a man with his own abrupt, startling declarations on the subject of romance.

It isn’t courting if he schemes with hir to pay back Ede … is it?

Content Advisory: An aromantic character pressed into dating along with casual references to general amatonormativity and ableism.

The Sorcerous Compendium of Postmortem Query

Necromancer Mara Hill has waited weeks for the Thinning: the one night the dead walk freely amongst the living. Her wandering great-aunt, Rosie, was wise in the way of magic and the world, and Mara knows of none other to ask. Books and magic alike haven’t restored her fading love, and Benjamin Lisabet is too wonderful to risk losing. Why can’t Mara keep herself from falling out of love whenever the girl she yearns for dares love her back?

She’s sure that Aunt Rosie’s spirit will offer up needed advice. She just doesn’t expect a deluge of deceased villagers set on unravelling everything Mara knows about what it means to love and be in love.

Content Advisory: Many non-explicit references to sex, sexual relationships and sexual attraction, along with discussions of amatonormativity and the internalised hatred experienced by a lithromantic character. Please also expect non-detailed references to gender dysphoria and depression. It should be noted that this piece also contains discussions about romantic attraction and (unlike some lithromantics) the protagonist doesn’t object to being subject of romantic interest.

The Mundane Progression of Premortem Colloquy

After a night of revelations to her dead aunt Rosie and her living brother Esher, Mara Hill must dare another with Benjamin Lisbet. If she’s truly the woman Mara hopes, surely Benjamin will be receptive to a conversation of the “I love you and want to be with you, just not romantically” sort? Surely this afternoon won’t stray beyond Mara’s preparations of a picnic basket, chives, rehearsed speeches and less-rumpled clothing?

Yet her months of searching for magic to refresh her fading love means there’s too much she doesn’t know about Benjamin. Too much Mara needs to know to hold this conversation without losing Benjamin’s friendship.

Mara thought speaking of her fading love under cover of dark difficult enough … but speaking of romance in daylight is another challenge entirely.

Content Advisory: This story contains non-explicit references to sex and sex acts by two allosexual aromantic-spectrum women. These references are more integral to the story and their relationship than in my other pieces, in that I’m not relying on mentions of sex as something these characters have or desire to convey their allosexuality.

It should be noted that this piece contains discussions about romance, romantic relationships and sexual relationships, along with the ways these intersect with autistic-targeted ableism and reflections on ways to navigate sexual non-romantic relationships. I don’t recommend this story for people who experience severe sexual and/or romantic repulsion.

Friendship

A sapphic aromantic wishes to partner a dragon’s handmaiden without the complications of a romantic relationship, but finds comfort in her friendship with her own dragon.

Content Advisory: Casual references to fantasy violence including dragons and fire. Depiction of amatonormativity and expectation of romance in relationships from both sexual partners and parents.

Attraction

A sapphic aromantic fears that her interest in another girl may be best explained by a word she doesn’t wish applied to her–romance.

Content Advisory: Casual references to fantasy violence including dragons and fire. References to amatonormativity and the vague nature of what is (and isn’t) decided to be romance or romantic.

What if It Isn’t

What if her love is a dull, flickering, rare thing, so insubstantial it makes better sense to disregard it as meaningful? What if her love is quiet and companionate at best while Keiko loves with fairytale passion, a woman who wants and needs to be wanted?

Pretending to be girlfriends while casing an art gallery with Keiko shouldn’t be a problem, but once Jessie realises things have gotten a little too real in the façade they’re showing to the world, the only thing to do is ask.

Content Advisory: Cuddling, touching and non-explicit/really vague sexual references. This piece is also light on any actual knowledge on how one may case an art gallery.

What Makes Us Human

Moll of Sirenne needs prompts in their girdle book to navigate casual conversations, struggles to master facial expressions and feels safest weeding the monastery’s vegetable gardens. Following their call to service, however, means offering wanderers in need a priest’s support and guidance. A life free of social expectation to court, wed and befriend does outweigh their fear of causing harm—until forgetting the date of a holiday provokes a guest’s ire and three cutting words: lifeless and loveless.

A priest must expand a guest’s sense of human worth, but what do they do when their own comes under question? Can an autistic, aromantic priest ever expect to serve outside the garden? And what day is it…?

Content Advisory: Depictions and discussions of ableism, amatonormativity and dehumanisation, particularly with regards to autism and aromanticism. Please expect additional background references to partner abuse and dysfunctional relationships, along with a side mention of magic causing harm to animals. This piece also includes reflections on non-romantic love’s being pushed as a second-best “humanising” quality on non-partnering, aplatonic and neurodiverse aros.

Those With More

When Mara Hill’s magic results in her brother’s impossible, wondrous transition, of course Suki wants to know how she did it! What if Sirenne’s magic workers can help others find euphoria? What if this magic can heal Suki’s hands—or at least lessen her pain? But Mara, distrustful of priests after their failure in protecting Esher, won’t share her power.

A senior priest must bear responsibility, but Suki suspects her problems lie deeper than lack of oversight, and her reluctance to discuss her aromanticism with a woman who needs support only proves it. Would she have preserved Mara’s faith and Esher’s health if she hadn’t first avoided revealing herself to her aromantic kin? If she’d faced their expectations that she shoulder their pain and grief as well as her own?

Suki has lived her life by the Sojourner’s second precept, but how does she serve when she doesn’t have more to give—and never will?

Content Advisory: Please expect many references to or depictions of aro antagonism, allo-aro antagonism, amatonormativity, familial abuse, mental illness, suicidal ideation, death, gender dysphoria, chronic pain, ableism and ageism. This piece contains non-detailed, non-specific reference to a character’s past suicide attempts as well as Suki’s use of the word “bitch” to describe herself (now in a more reclaiming way).

Lucky

A game is the best way for Piper to deal with the casual amatonormativity of alloromantics who think they accept his aromanticism.

Content Advisory: Depiction of amatonormativity in social discussions about relationships and references to the amatonormativity experienced by aromantics in sexual relationships. Some swearing and casual sex references.

Ringbound

If Kit can’t find anything unfair about the contract or the man, why is the ring so heavy?

Kit March is a signature away from marrying the man who loves him. He should be delighted, but for reasons he doesn’t understand and can’t explain, his future with Lauri weighs upon him. What is a magician to do when no script extant has words for the confusion he feels?

Content Advisory: This piece depicts the experience of a non-partnering, allosexual aromantic man who possesses little understanding of his identity and makes questionable decisions in navigating his feelings and society’s amatonormativity. Please expect casual/non-explicit sex and sexual attraction references, along with kissing mentions.

Absence of Language

Four months ago, Kit March abandoned his fiancé without even a note of explanation for a deserving man.

Leaving Lauri should have freed him from the pressures of romantic expectation, so how does a talented magician end up performing flash magic for buttons and hairpins in Raugue’s worst tavern? Kit doesn’t know and doesn’t care, as long as he can keep drowning guilt in beer and spellworking. As long as he can keep not thinking!

When a stranger offers the word “aromantic” followed by an opportunity to join a dangerous quest to the Gast, Kit may have more distraction than he can survive—and more comprehension than he can navigate.

Content Advisory: Please expect depictions of or references to amatonormativity, allosexism, cissexism, heterosexism, depression, autistic-targeted ableism, alcohol and alcohol used as a coping mechanism for depression. There’s also several non-explicit sex references, Kit’s use of sex as another coping mechanism, some casual references to and depictions of violence, and a heaping mountain of guilt.

Unspoken

An allo-aro contemplates the problem of how to tell hir best friend that ze wishes for a sexual queerplatonic relationship.

Content Advisory: Depiction of amatonormativity in social discussions about relationships and relationship experiences. Romance references.

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