Subordinate Excuse

Valvatorez: You're going to dedicate your life to me...? I just saved your life. Why would you want to do that? My efforts to save you will only be made worthwhile if you use your life to fulfill your own desire.
Fenrich: And that is why I'd like to dedicate the rest of my life to you! That is my desire!

Sometimes, the real reason a character is a lackey is because it's an excuse to hang around someone they like. Maybe the character is too shy (or proud) to confess their feelings to the boss/liege/general. Maybe the brass, the parents, or society in general would disapprove of anything other than a purely business-like relationship between the two of them. Maybe the superior themselves would be resistant to the idea. But as an employee, the lackey gets to stay close to their object of affection without arousing suspicions or needing to make any confessions.

There are other factors as well:
  • The superior's job is to watch and take care of the lackey, and this feeds nicely into a sense of being protected and cared for.
  • Being a valued minion feeds nicely into a sense of being needed.

This also works the other way around, where being the boss/liege/general is just an easy way to keep people you like around you without having to actually tell them that, and to inconspicuously provide for their needs. To make this more fair, this usually requires that the lackeys be ambivalent or oblivious to the real reason for their employment.

Compare Bodyguard Crush. Contrast No Hero to His Valet, and Ignored Enamored Underling, where the underling isn't afraid of rejection and their boss isn't resistant; the boss just doesn't care for them romantically. Not to be confused with Just Following Orders. See also Minionshipping, where the two characters are at a similar level in the hierarchy.


Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Fullmetal Alchemist:
    • Riza Hawkeye and Roy Mustang. Officially, she's his personal assistant and bodyguard, but their relationship extends back to long before the story began. The manga is more explicit on the "protection" angle, along with the romantic subtext between the two, but there's a law against military fraternization. The author's comments in the third art book confirm that this law is a reason they aren't married.
    • In a non-romantic sense, this also rather appropriately describes Roy's relationship to his True Companions/underlings. Riza and the four male subordinates are devoted to Roy and his goals and would do most anything he asked of them. The Big Bad is also aware of this as well and scatters them across Amestris to weaken Roy's power base and demoralize him. It doesn't work as well as expected.
  • This is how Hayate in Hayate the Combat Butler is initially employed, although the lead girl usually moons over him in private.
  • Rozen Maiden: Shinku and Jun's ambiguous relationship largely works on the fact that Shinku, who is not particularly cuddly, can treat Jun as her servant. And he's supposed to be her master!
  • In Neon Genesis Evangelion, both Bridge Bunnies Makoto Hyuga and Maya Ibuki are doing their jobs to stay close to Misato and Ritsuko, respectively, not that either Misato or Ritsuko are interested. Misato, however, is not above taking advantage of Hyuga's crush to get him to do things not covered by regulations — spying, picking up her laundry, the usual. She does feel pretty guilty about it.
  • In Magi Labyrinth of Magic it's hinted that the real reason Morgiana sticks with Alibaba, even though she's not necessarily obligated to do so, it's because of her feelings for him.
  • Dance in the Vampire Bund has Mina Tepes, descendant of Dracula and ruler of all vampires, apparently enlisting Akira Regendorf of the Earth Clan (a family of werewolves) as her personal bodyguard because she loves him and the rest of the vampire covenant wouldn't approve of such a relationship. It turns out that even he knows but thinks he is unworthy and monstrous (never mind his crush is an ancient vampire queen).
  • Tidal Wave of Transformers Energon started out being passionately loyal to Megatron. After his reformatting into Mirage, he became... well, just passionate.
  • The Familiar of Zero:
    • The anime has both Louise and Saito ineffectually use this excuse because of the 'familiar/master' thing.
    • When Saito is knighted early in the second season and Siesta is assigned to be his personal maid, she uses it too.
    • Towards the end of the third season Tabitha tries to become Saito's new Bright Lady, complete with a contract kiss.
  • Bleach:
    • Ikkaku Madarame hides his abilities to avoid being considered for the position of captain so he can stay in the 11th division and serve under Kenpachi Zaraki. Later evidence of his power, his own admission that Yachiru is stronger than he is and the fact that at least two captains and lieutenants know are a pretty strong indication he has nothing to fear anyway.
    • Yumichika is equal in strength to Ikkaku. He wants to stay under Ikkaku, which means pretending to be even weaker than how weak Ikkaku pretends to be and hiding that his shikai is supposed to have an energy draining ability.
    • Momo Hinamori becomes vice-captain of the Fifth Division because she's in love with the captain, Sosuke Aizen. Unfortunately, after The Reveal, it turns out this was exactly as he planned.
    • Kiyone Kotetsu's enthusiastic crush on Ukitake can easily be seen as her reason for wanting to be his third seat.
    • The manga companion books state this is the situation between Kyouraku and his vice-captain Nanao, with the excuses apparently going both ways. The reason Nanao is never seen on the front lines? Well, no-one knows for certain, but the rumourmill believes it's because Kyouraku simply can't bear to have her there. And when the readers learn what happened to his previous vice-captain, this begins to make sense. (In a recent chapter, Kyoraku would've openly admitted to this if Nanao hadn't cut him off).
    • Kanae Katagiri is the servant and bodyguard to Uryuu's father, Ryuuken. She's also been devoted to him from the moment they first met as young children. When he suffers from an Heroic BSOD due to his hopes for the future of the Quincies being shattered by Aizen, she pulls a You Are Not Alone speech on him to make it absolutely clear that if he tries to slink off into the Grey Rain Of Depression alone, she'll abandon everything to go with him. It's confirmed that she is Uryuu's Missing Mom.
  • Excel Saga: Excel wants to conquer the world, or so she claims. It's really more of an excuse to be with Il Palazzo. In her words, she "writes 'love' and reads 'loyalty'". On the other hand, Hyatt only really follows Il Palazzo because Excel believes in him. Not quite so in the manga, where Il Palazzo seems to have subjected all his underlings to some idiosyncratic form of brainwashing, with funky side-effects on their personalities.
  • Nakai, a supporting character from Bakuman。 is passionate about drawing manga for Aoki, the script-writer he has a crush on. He eventually tells her that he'll draw for her only if she becomes his girlfriend, leading her to slap him and work solo.
  • Katekyo Hitman Reborn!:
    • Gokudera. One wonders how far exactly his "loyalty" for Tsuna goes before it starts getting into the realm of making him a Stalker with a Crush.
    • When Squalo first met Xanxus, he could 'feel' his power and anger, and decided to follow him for it.
  • In Gundam 00, semi-competent antagonist ace Patrick Colasour's motivation quickly shifts from being an arrogant fighter jock to being with his beloved taskmaster of a CO, Colonel TAISAA!!! Kati Mannequin. This is explicitly his reason for joining and later defecting from A-Laws in the second season, even though he's really not up to it - wherever his ColonelTAISAA!!! goes, he will follow. They end up married.
  • Bjorn and Askeladd in Vinland Saga. Bjorn fights in Askeladd's crew because he considers Askeladd a friend and wants to look out for him more than anything else, while Askeladd in turn considers Bjorn his only true friend amongst the Vikings.
  • Perfectly describes the relationship between Meganekko Kinon and her boss Rossiu in Gurren Lagann. Kinon wanted to be around him, so as Rossiu (to no one's suprise) gained power and responsibilities in the new earth government, she followed behind him and learned to be just as organized and disciplined, eventually becoming his secretary of sorts post Time Skip.
  • Shakugan no Shana:
    • At the very start, Shana was only planning to protect Yuji until he disappeared. Then she found out he wasn't going to. She's not exactly his subordinate, so this might be more of a Bodyguard Crush, but still, she listens to his advice and instructions, and trusts him completely. And she is using his MacGuffin as an excuse; it would normally be easy for her to just cut him down, since he's technically Not Quite Human.
    • Keisaku Satou uses this to stay close to Margerie Daw.
  • FLCL Commander Amaro towards Lieutenant Kitsurubami. Subverted when he tries to make a pass at her, and she makes it very clear that she can't stand him romantically.
  • Mahou Sensei Negima!. Evangeline claims that she's only training Negi, Asuna, and the rest of their group so that she can shape them into her "sub-bosses", although from the way she acts (training them, letting them use her resort for vacation, saving their butts from a demon and going sightseeing with them afterwards, etc.) it's fairly evident that she enjoys their company more that she wants to admit.
  • Naruto:
  • Riley in Digimon Tamers seems to be this to Yamaki. Although is it the same if they're apparently dating?
  • In Hanasakeru Seishounen, Toranosuke seems to be using this to stick close to Kajika. Li Ren doesn't seem opposed to being her guard either.
  • Ghost In The Shell Standalone Complex: 2nd Gig. Gohda suggests this is the reason Batou followed his former military superior, Major Kusanagi, into Section 9. As he's saying this in front of Bateau's colleagues (with the Major listening in) this leads to a Not So Stoic moment on the part of Batou.
  • In Mouse the main cast uses it in a way convoluted and straightforward at once: officially Sorata Muon is regularly berated by three hottest ladies in his art school. Secretly, Mouse's female sidekicks play submissive games with their boss when they're in mood for this (when they weren't, he got simply tackle-glomped instead).
  • Kyo Kara Maoh has Conrad Weller, while he would certainly serve under whoever was Maou (unless they were so evil he fled the country like Adalbert), assigns himself away from all his normal duties to more or less babysit the new king 24/7. Because he is, not to put too fine a point on it, obsessed. When he was a kid this seems to have been Wolfram, but Wolfram wounded him deeply by repudiating him for his human ancestry. So he was bitter for a while until Gunter straightened him out about arrogance, and then he attached himself to Julia. They didn't allow that to be romantic, because she was engaged, but then she died, and Shinou set Conrad up to fixate on Yuri instead.
  • Kinkan from .hack//SIGN with regard to Subaru.
  • In the Yaoi manga series (and OVA) The Tyrant Falls in Love the relationship between the protagonists uses a lot of this.
  • Kallen from Code Geass is this for Zero.
  • In One Piece, it seems that post-Time Skip a large number of Marines serve under Tashigi partially because she is an adorable young woman, partially because they are also incredibly loyal to their superior, as Chapter 679 showed.
  • M'Quve of Mobile Suit Gundam may well have had a crush on his commanding officer, Kycilia Zabi, to whom he was very devoted (his last words as he dies are to order a subordinate to send her his priceless Ming vase). They definitely have the Dark Lady/Black Knight vibe going for them.
  • In the beginning of Eyeshield 21, Mamori became the manager of the Devilbats solely to relieve Sena's workload and stop Hiruma from bullying him. Then the epilogue has her as the manager of the Saikyoudai Wizards, whose captain is Hiruma. Considering the two have had varying amounts of Ship Tease throughout the series, and that they're sharing a car...
  • In Sekai-ichi Hatsukoi, Masamune Takano as the boss uses this as an excuse for his subordinate Ritsu Onodera. Takano is persistently pursuing Onodera who was his ex-boyfriend from 10 years ago and looks for any excuse to spend time with him at work or outside work.
  • In Madan no Ou to Vanadis, this is the reason that Teita continues to serve as Tigre's maid.
  • In Saki, this is the reason Hajime is serving as Touka's maid/Mahjong teammate/husbandnote . Touka "bought" Hajime from her father to serve as a maid and mahjong teammate, despite Hajime having quit the game as a result of feeling guilty over using sleight of hand to cheat. Touka then had Hajime wear chains in order to make it more difficult for her to use sleight of hand, but Hajime came to see the chains as symbolic of her bond with Touka, and thus refuses to give them up.
  • In the RS arc of Pokemon Special, it turns out that Wallace stepped down from being the Hoenn Champion to become a Gym Leader so that he'd be able to spend more time with his girlfriend Winona, who'd just be appointed Leader supervisor. Unfortunately, having her boyfriend champion officially ranking underneath her made her feel insecure of her own abilities, leading the two to break up.
  • Pandora Hearts has Gilbert Nightray who, despite the fact that he was adopted into a rival noble family, still calls himself the loyal servant of Oz Vessalius. Gilbert himself admits that he just wants an excuse to stay by Oz's side. Not that Oz seems to mind...

    Fanfiction 
  • Al-Cid's assistant is revealed to have a crush on him in The Tainted Grimoire.
  • A Brief History of Equestria: It's suggested by some historians that the only reason Sullamander got the job of Commander Mareinus' Second-In-Command was because they were lovers. But obviously, this is just Hurricane-era propaganda.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist fanfiction, this is common in both Roy/Riza (as described above) and Roy/Ed fics. Hell, it comes up in pretty much any pairing involving the various members of Team Mustang, but those are the two most popular. Olivier/Miles is another frequent one.
  • Innumerable My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fics have the relationship between Twilight Sparkle and Celestia as this, from one or both directions, with Eternal and Composure probably being the most popular.
  • Bleach fanfic Chasing the Moon has Byakuya and Yuzu playing both sides of this trope towards each other for years. Things really start to get interesting when Yuzu becomes his vice-captain, and people start noticing the "excuse" part of the Subordinate Excuse. (In the prequel, set ten years before the story, this trope is the reason she joined the Sixth in the first place).
  • Many Maleficent fanfics emphasize this in the relationship between Maleficent and her raven-shapeshifter servant Diaval. It is often a plot point that something happens that makes them lose their excuse, and forces them to be open about their feelings, or be separated.
  • Whenever Touhou introduces another superior/subordinate pair of characters there are inevitably at least a few fics that depict them as this trope, helped along by one of them being canon (Eirin/Kaguya, see below). By far the most popular is Remilia/Sakuya, which might have it's origins with Perfect Memento mentioning an in-universe theory about Sakuya being a former vampire hunter who was defeated by Remilia and then decided to serve her.

    Film 
  • In Maleficent, Maleficent and Diaval start out as real mistress and servant, but at least Diaval comes to care about Maleficent; the other way round is not so easy to tell, because she's an Ice Queen. In the end, Diaval decides to follow her into certain death, despite her telling him that he doesn't have to.
  • In the beginning of The Princess Bride, Wesley is in this type of relationship with Buttercup, but this status quickly changes.
  • An exceptionally dark example is Sunset Boulevard: Norma's butler is her first husband and original director, who is still so devoted to her that he helps encourage her warped fantasies, even about a relationship with another man.

    Literature 
  • In the Magic: The Gathering Kamigawa novels, Toshi at one point asks for payment for helping Michiko even though he wanted to. He says this was for the sake of professionalism.
  • In the short story Bombshells, Molly comments that getting to learn magic from Harry soothes the pain of being rejected by him.
    I could wait. And in the meantime...
  • Sancho Panza from Don Quixote, especially The Musical adaptation, where he gets his own song about it.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: Brienne of Tarth joins King Renly Baratheon's personal bodyguard in order to stay close to him; besides being married, after crowning himself he's above her station and inconveniently gay.
  • Jessica Atreides in Dune points out to Hawat as evidence for her loyalty, that she actually has the power to suborn Duke Leto's power but refuses as that would not only violate the Bene Geserit Code but would reduce Leto to a cypher and she has no desire to be "married" to a cypher. She is rather content to be The Consigliere.
  • One unnamed novel has a young, honorable hero who has no idea he's noble, but a "native" young man he meets on his journey recognises the hero's nobility and voluntarily becomes the hero's "slave", shocking the hero when he realises the situation.

    Live Action TV 
  • Orange Is The New Black: silent Norma serves Red quite devotedly, like dying her hair or shaving her legs. Since Norma does not need anything from Red and is shown to be as tough in later episodes. Fans have to wonder if Norma likes to serve Red.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Ser Loras Tyrell is the sole male heir of the second-richest family in Westeros, and presumably he has duties in Highgarden and the Reach, yet in Season 2 he chooses to devote his entire life to protecting Renly. Being the Lord Commander of his brother-in-law's Kingsguard is a very convenient way for Loras to be able to spend a lot of time with his beloved, as his frequent visits can be explained away as being job-related. (It doesn't stop the rumours about them from spreading among Renly's followers, however.)
    • Brienne of Tarth is the sole surviving child of Lord Selwyn Tarth (and therefore his heiress), although in her case, she has to be content with loving Renly from a distance while she serves as his Kingsguard. What makes her dedication quite remarkable is that, as a woman, Brienne herself isn't obligated—or even expected—to physically fight for Renly when he summons his Stormlands bannermen (which Tarth is a part of) to his cause.
  • Farscape. Braca. Scorpius. A relationship founded on hard work, loyalty, and occasional licking.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • Commander Riker refuses promotion and command of a ship of his own several times during the series run.
    • Inverted when Riker - to his surprise - wound up serving alongside his ex (Troi), who was his subordinate and who he still had feelings for. In a Bad Future, Riker admits regret that they didn't get back together. In the proper timeline, they actually did - and coinciding with their marriage was his promotion to captain of the Titan.
  • In the latter Star Trek: The Original Series movies, this may be an explanation for why Spock continues to serve as Kirk's first officer even after he is promoted to Captain himself.
  • Star Trek: Voyager. When Captain Janeway tells her Number Two Chakotay that they need to "define some parameters" about their relationship, he responds with an "ancient legend" about a warrior who could not find peace, until the day he met a beautiful woman warrior whom he swore to serve for the rest of his days.
    Janeway: Is that really an ancient legend?
    Chakotay: No. But that made it easier to say.
  • Merlin fans theorize that this is why Arthur keeps Merlin around, despite claiming that he's the "worst servant ever". Combined with their copious Ho Yay...
  • Josh and Donna on The West Wing.
  • On CSI, Sara is heavily implied to have been in love with Grissom since before the start of the show, and took the job in Las Vegas deliberately to be with him.
  • Kamen Rider Double:
    • This is Kazu's reason for trying to help Saeko overthrow her father. He's upfront about his motives from the start, but she doesn't take him seriously until he becomes the Utopia Dopant, resulting in him killing her when she defies him to help Wakana escape.
    • Kyosui Izumi/Luna Dopant, having fallen in love with Daido who was the last person Izumi saw before his death.
  • Frasier:
    • It's been noted that Martin doesn't need a live-in physical therapist or housekeeper, being quite spry enough to take care of himself as long as Frasier's around, but he liked Daphne so much when he met her that he offered her a live-in position, and she became so attached to the Crane family that she never moved out or switched to a client who didn't treat her like a servant. In one episode where she did miserably prepare to leave after realizing that Martin was doing so well physically she wasn't needed, she may or may not have unconsciously tripped Martin up, which injured him and gave her an excuse to stay.
    • Roz has turned down an offer for a higher-level job more than once because Frasier's her best friend.
  • In Queer as Folk, Vince follows Stuart around from club to club like a loyal puppy because he's had a crush on him for years. A few characters accuse Stuart of purposely not sleeping with Vince because he wants to keep him in this "sidekick" role indefinitely.
  • On The Inspector Lynley Mysteries, the eponymous Inspector Lynley uses this to call his partner Sergeant Havers in on every case he can possibly manage after she is demoted in series 3. Oh, she's a brilliant officer and works very well with him, but that has nothing to do with why he wants her around.
  • On House, Cameron left House's department twice, and both times he tried to get her to come back. For purely professional reasons, of course.

    Opera 

    Video Games 
  • Fire Emblem:
    • Rennac from Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones complained about Princess L'Arachel constantly but "never really tried very hard" to escape her service, according to his ending. L'Arachel/Rennac is second only to Sain/Priscilla in the department of "not" paired endings.
    • Lyre in Radiant Dawn never really liked fighting and only joined the Laguz Army because she had a crush on Captain Ranulf.
    • In the new Fire Emblem Fates, the Cute Bruiser Oboro is specifically said to have a crush on her boss, Prince Takumi. Doesn't necessarily count as Bodyguard Crush note  because despite her fighting skills, she isn't specifically tasked with Takumi's safety. If the player pursues their whole support chain, they will get married and Oboro will be the mother of Takumi's kid, Kisaragi.
  • In Songs Of Araiah, this is one of the reasons Jason decides to remain as Melissa's servant, especially after it becomes clear that he can leave whenever he wants.
  • In Tales of Symphonia, many fans attribute such feelings to Pronyma (toward Yggdrasill) and/or Botta (toward Yuan).
  • In Tales of the Abyss, it's made clear the Legretta the Quick has feelings for Van Grants, which is mostly the reason she stays by his side and helps his cause.
  • Tali, the resident Wrench Wench from Mass Effect, uses an impending apocalypse as an excuse to follow Commander Shepard, for as much reason as being around them as wanting to save the Galaxy. It might also have something to do with the fact she's been in love with Male Shepard(the option for Fem Shep got edited out) since the moment they met, as the second game reveals.
  • In Suikoden III the only reason that Sarah is involved in Luc's plot is to be near him. They're even Together in Death.
  • In the backstory of Touhou, Eirin Yagokoro made the Hourai Elixir, a potion for Complete Immortality forbidden by Lunarian law and punishable by exile, solely because her mistress, Kaguya Houraisan, asked her to. When Kaguya's exile was deemed over Eirin joined the entourage that was sent to retrieve her... and she murdered the rest of them, abandoning her home and position just so she could be with Kaguya and serve her. She even hides most of her abilities from Kaguya, not wanting to embarrass her by having a subordinate more powerful than her.
  • Tsukihime has this with both the maids. Hisui, who is Shiki's maid, is very fond of him despite her appearance, and while very straight laced, often helps him more than is strictly necessary and even bends the rules to assist him sometimes. Kohaku, Hisui's sister, and in most story paths Akiha's maid, switches places so that she attends to Shiki due to their growing relationship in the path where Kohaku is the Love Interest, in the most blatant example of this trope in-game. Less blatantly, Akiha made Kohaku her maid in the first place in an attempt to show her kindness and friendship so as to atone for her father's horrible abuse to Kohaku.
  • In Super Robot Wars Original Generation, this is kinda... sorta... maybe... the case with Russel Bagman in his "relationship" as subordinate to Katina Tarask.

    Web Comics 
  • Noblesse: Frankenstein initially joked about being Raizel's butler when they first met in order to shake off a couple of clan leaders. Something happened that made Frankenstein passionately dedicated to Raizel, spending over 800 years looking for him when he went missing & immediately returning to his service upon finding him.
  • The Fourth:
    • Derk never really shows much inclination towards Lord Skarva's ideals, but nonetheless wants to protect him.
    • Much of Skarva's team of demons, ghosts, lurkins, and flish shows at least mild signs of this.
  • In El Goonish Shive, Nioi apparently serves Lord Tedd because she likes him a lot and thinks he needs watching over. Lavender (the Uryuom secretary of Mr. Edward Verres) was hinted to be another case and now confirmed.
  • In Romantically Apocalyptic, Pilot seems to have a crush on The Captain. Case in point: when Sniper gets swallowed by a whale, Pilot sends him a note saying "Ha ha ha, now Captain and me can finally be together forever."
  • Drowtales: Shala Val'Sharen has an obvious crush on her squad's officer Sarnel Tions Sarghress. She teases him, constantly seeks his attention and generally annoys him. The two entered into a relationship as of Chapter 38, though how deep it goes is unknown, given the way drow society works in regards to relationships.

    Web Original 
  • In the Whateley Universe, Greasy is Peeper's sidekick, no matter how abusive Peeper gets.

    Western Animation 
  • Pinky from Pinky and the Brain never had much interest in conquering the world. He just did it as something to do with his pal, Brain.
  • Transformers:
    • Lugnut's loud devotion to Megatron from Transformers Animated. Megatron is not amused.
    • In Beast Wars, Inferno views himself as a loyal drone completely devoted to his - well - queen. The fact that his Catch Phrase is "For the Royalty!" says it all. Megatron is well-aware of this and is frequently irritated by it, though having a devoted minion (that's actually useful) makes up for it.
  • A popular fan reason for why Shego stayed with Drakken in Kim Possible (that, and being a Deadpan Snarker presented with the equivalent of an all-you-can eat buffet). The creators applied Ascended Fanon for the Grand Finale.
  • At times in The Venture Bros., it seems like The Monarch's henchman #21 stays around because of his attraction to The Monarch's girlfriend/fiancee/wife, Dr. Girlfriend/Dr. Mrs. The Monarch. As of the Season 4 finale he decides that's not a good enough reason and defects to S.P.H.I.N.X.
  • Smithers towards Mr. Burns in The Simpsons.
  • In The Legend of Korra, Zhu Li turns out to be this for Varrick.
  • The Steven Universe episode "Rose's Scabbard" reveals, in the most Tear Jerking way possible, that this was the reason Pearl stayed with Rose on Earth to fight against the Homeworld Gems.
    Rose: Pearl...
    Pearl: Yes?
    Rose: I'm going to stay and fight for this planet. You don't have to do this with me...
    Pearl: But I want to!
    Rose: I know you do. Please, please understand: if we lose, we'll be killed. And if we win, we can never go home.