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Dry Docked Ship

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This trope is about characters who wouldn't fit together now, for whatever reason, but about whom there is a general consensus in the fandom — even in fics focused on another pairing — that they used to date/have slept together at some point in the past.

This does not apply to Canon exes.

May be secondary to another pairing, not considered a threat but treated rather condescendingly, as in the Merlin examples below. Alternatively, it may be a popular ship which assumes that the Foe Romance Subtext they have now is due to a horrible, horrible break-up.

Not to be confused with Dry Docking, which is about fans opposing any canon ships for a character in order to free the character up for their own fantasies.

Compare Starboarding.

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Beastars: Gosha/Yafya. The two were extremely close when young, and even had big plans together, but their relationship and plans went sour when Gosha impregnated a female wolf and abandoned him to start a family. Some fans extrapolate this into them being lovers, or at the very least, Yafya being in love with Gosha then, and still not quite over him.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist fanfiction featuring a Roy/Hughes pairing, it's nearly always set while they're cadets before Hughes met his wife Gracia.
  • In Fushigi Yuugi slash fic revolving around either Tasuki or Kouji, it's very often assumed they're either former lovers or friends-with-benefits, regardless of whatever the central pairing of the fic turns out to be. Canon more strongly seems to indicate they're Heterosexual Life-Partners.
    • Also, Hotohori x Nuriko.
  • This is a common occurrence in the Hetalia: Axis Powers fandom, thanks to the characters being nations who presumably have had numerous alliances, treaties, and fluctuating relations with other nations over the course of history. While America/Lithuania isn't a hugely popular ship, even some fans that ship America with someone else think that the two probably had a thing going on during the twenties when Lithuania was living at America's house. Similar cases have also been made for England and France, America and Japan, England and Japan and Russia and China. And of course, even the most ardent Prussia/Hungary shippers have to acknowledge that Hungary used to be married to Austria. Though generally not focused on much by canon or fandom, Austria also used to be married to Spain and, it is suggested, France. Austria has been married to quite a lot of people actually. Apparently he really gets around. And there's Russia/Finland, and Sweden/Norway…
  • K:
    • As one of the best examples of Ship Teasing, Red and Blue Kings Mikoto and Reisi (MikoRei) get this.
    • So do their thirds-in-command, Saruhiko and Misaki, who have even more Foe Romance Subtext moments in the anime and shippy official art (showing them when they were friends before Saruhiko left the Red Clan and joined the Blue Clan).
  • Sometimes after Sakura Kyoko made her first appearance in Puella Magi Madoka Magica, people suspected her of having had a relationship with Tomoe Mami in the past, since she did acknowledge knowing her. They had at least been friends and partners in magical girl activities, but the situation in Kyoko's house made her adopt a paradigm that goes completely the opposite of Mami's.
  • In Spiral, almost any fic featuring slash and dealing with Kanone and/or Eyes, but not being primarily KanonexEyes, will still mention them at least having been together at some point. Kanone is very, very often the psycho and/or dead ex when the author wants to pair Eyes with another guy.

    Comic Books 

  • Ben-Hur (1959): It is widely alleged that Messala's actor Stephen Boyd was told to portray Messala as trying to rekindle his relationship with Judah (Charlton Heston), Judah's wasn't, hence the impression of this trope.
  • GoldenEye: The way James Bond reacts to Alec Trevelyan's betrayal seems more like a lover's reaction than a co-worker's.
  • The School for Good and Evil (2022): Surprisingly, a lot of fans walked away from this teen-centric film shipping the Deans of the two schools, Professor Dovey and Lady Lesso, together instead of any of the actual students, mainly due to the chemistry between Charlize Theron (Lesso) and Kerry Washington (Dovey). A lot of fans headcanon that Dovey and Lesso used to date as teens before breaking up, and like to write fics where they get back together.
  • Star Wars: Some shippers choose to think that Luke and Leia got into a relationship that eventually ended in between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, before they knew that they were brother and sister, due to the novelization of the first film strongly implying they were going to get in a relationship at the end.
    • Continues into the Sequel Trilogy. A popular-ish Fanon theory (which may or may not be Jossed by canon) was that, of all people Poe Dameron and Kylo Ren used to be lovers before Kylo’s fall. Overlaps with We Used To Be Friends thanks to the theory that they knew each other in childhood, building off the canon factoid of the Damerons and the Solos being war buddies. Poe recognizing Kylo on Crait without his helmet and, in the comics, Poe’s access code for his X-wing including the name “Ben” (a name that, among others, was Kylo’s name before he fell. To this day, that plot thread still hasn’t been resolved) only adds more fuel to the fire.

  • Harry Potter:
    • Even before Sirius died, most Remus/Sirius shipping was set back when the Marauders were still at Hogwarts.
    • Dorcas Meadowes and Marlene McKinnon are both only mentioned once in passing to say that they were murdered. However, due to this vagueness, it is quite popular in the fandom to head canon that they dated at Hogwarts before breaking up sometime afterwards.
    • Fanon often makes Charlie and Tonks Amicable Exes, apparently for no other reason than the fact that, if you do the math, they were apparently in the same Hogwarts year.
    • A popular fanon is the idea that Severus Snape and Narcissa Malfoy dated at some point before Narcissa married Lucius. It's partly due to how intimate they seem when she visits him at Spinner's End.

    Live Action TV 
  • Buddies Helo and Kara of Battlestar Galactica are widely regarded to have slept together prior to the series.
  • Giles/Ethan in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, along with various vampire pairings. Spike/Angel in particular has been pretty much confirmed by Word of God.
  • The idea that KC and Bianca have slept together at least once seems to be one of the few fully agreed upon and common opinions in the DTC ("Degrassi" Tumblr Community).
  • Doctor Who: Almost all Doctor/Master fans assume that the two were lovers and went through a break-up of some kind before they both left Gallifrey, especially given that the Expanded Universe made it explicitly clear that Theta Sigma and Koschei note  were friends throughout their time at the Academy, a fact that was hinted at in Classic Who and confirmed in "The End of Time". The endless Foe Romance Subtext — particularly in post-2005 canon, where it has come very close to "fully text" — seems to support this. One Expanded Universe writer has said the Doctor/Master relationship only makes sense as "bitter exes".
  • There is speculation in the Firefly fandom that Kaylee and Jayne hooked up a couple times in the past, in a friends-with-benefits sort of formula. As the only two long-standing crew members to be otherwise-unpaired, both of whom have lines about having to take care of themselves as a result... it kinda makes sense.
  • There was an absurdly popular Glee fan theory for a while (back when a lot of viewers were holding out for Sam to be bisexual) that Sam had transferred from Dalton and he had dated Blaine while there. More recent developments (namely, Sam's poverty and continued lack of interest in guys) have put this to rest.
  • Heroes has Claude/Bennet, whose fics tend to be set before Bennet tried to kill Claude.
  • Due to The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power being a treated like a spiritual Prequel to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, all the interactions between Sauron and Galadriel come out as a woman angry at her ex, after he literally asked Galadriel to be his Queen consort in the show. There are a lot of memes based on this and people started to create even fanfics just mere days after the finale of Season 1.
  • Over on The Mentalist, most people think that Bosco and Lisbon slept together at least once. Lisbon has moved on. Bosco hasn't.
  • Merlin: Merlin/Will, Merlin and/or Arthur/Lancelot, and past, unrequited or simply unconsummated Uther/Gaius and/or Uther/Nimue.
  • Robin Hood: There is some debate on whether or not Robin and Marian slept together pre-show, prior to Robin leaving for the Crusades. There's no consensus, but fics that assume or confirm that their relationship was consummated are not considered out of the question (even for those that ship another couple). There is also some evidence in the show itself, particularly the deliberate avoidance of the usual "Maid" when referring to Marian. The creators have stated that they went with "Lady Marian" because they wanted to suggest that Robin and Marian had a history together. Of course, there were also several innuendoes in the show that suggested Marian was still a virgin, so the question still remains.
  • Dr. Cox and Carla from Scrubs. It was later confirmed that they went on one date.
  • Some parts of Stargate SG-1 fandom have a working theory that Samantha Carter and Cameron Mitchell were an item at some point in the past.
  • Many Succession fans think Kendall and Stewy are bitter ex boyfriends. While they frequently betray each other, Stewy seems to genuinely care about Kendall. The theory is that they dated in college and he still holds some feelings for his friend. Even Arian Moayed has stated they've been boyfriends in the past.
  • There've been a lot of serious hints dropped that Harvey and Donna on Suits were once in a romantic relationship. As of episode 3.06, a one-night-stand has been confirmed.
  • Many Supernatural fics portray Dean as having had a thing with Benny in Purgatory, even/especially ones that have Dean/Castiel as the endgame pairing. Similarly, a lot of fics portray Dean and Crowley as having slept together when Dean was a demon; their time together was referred to as a "summer of love" in canon and it's heavily implied that they at a minimum were engaging in threesomes, so fans don't need to stretch that far at all for this interpretation.
  • Wednesday: A fairly popular headcanon in the fandom is that Larissa Weems had a crush on Morticia during their time at Nevermore, but never did anything because Morticia is so in love with Gomez. This has little to no evidence in actual canon, but it is helped by the chemistry between Gwendoline Christie and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Almost any fanfic centered around the teenage Weems will have her have a crush on Morticia; whether it is unrequited or not depends on the author.
  • The West Wing: CJ and Toby are often speculated to have had some sort of romantic involvement in the past based on their obviously close relationship and several flirtatious moments. Toby's last appearance in the series has CJ show up at his apartment late at night with wine, the subtext of which he points out just before she leaves. During a podcast appearance frequent director Thomas Schlamme agreed with the potential to see their relationship this way.

  • The Magnus Archives:
    • It's a nearly universally accepted piece of Fanon that Peter and Elias were together at one point before the start of the series. A common Fandom-Specific Plot is them having been married and divorced multiple times, often Played for Laughs.
    • Daisy and Basira's relationship is left ambiguous, but it's clear that they've been very close for many years; quite a few fans like to speculate that they were romantically involved while working for Section 31.

    Video Games 
  • Animal Crossing: New Horizons: Redd/Tom Nook as bitter exes that may or may not still have some Belligerent Sexual Tension or even may still be interested in each other, but that have broken up in bad terms, usually due to business decisions.
  • BlazBlue: A good portion of the fanbase believe that Makoto and Kagura were at least Friends with Benefits once, which makes all their interactions all the funnier. Of course, it's implied a few times that this is indeed the case.
  • Deltarune:
    • While their relationship is rather vague in-game, a lot of fanworks portray King and Queen as ex-lovers and Lancer's parents, to the point that many consider it Fanon.
    • A common interpretation of Seam and Jevil's relationship is that they were a couple before the latter went insane.
    • Due to the meme of Spamton being a "divorce mascot", it's common fanon that he's divorced, with the most common candidates for his ex being Swatch and Jevil.
  • Ensemble Stars!: Rei and Keito used to be childhood friends, and from what we see in the Full Episode Flashback Crossroads they were very close. But the War drove a pretty giant wedge between them, and unlike the other fine/Akatsuki + Oddball pairs, neither really seems especially motivated to reconcile. It's therefore pretty common to interpret them as having had some kind of thing which Keito gave up on to pursue Eichi's plans, and based on their conversation in the Main Story, in which Rei references among other things 'sleeping alone' since the War, it's certainly got canonical support.
  • Genshin Impact: Fans tend to ship Raiden Ei and Yae Miko as exes. While it's often assumed they get back together again, there are also jokes about the two continuing to squabble. Since Raiden Ei effectively ghosted Yae Miko for 500 years, and yet Yae Miko is still a mild Tsundere towards her, this almost writes itself.
  • Kingdom Hearts: Due to their established relationship as former childhood friends and a heavy helping of Foe Romance Subtext, fan works commonly portray Axel and Saïx as exes (often bitter ones, though since the release of Kingdom Hearts III it has become more common to portray them as either Amicable Exes or having gotten back together entirely).
  • There's a contingent of Metal Gear fans that think Snake and Otacon had something but broke it off due to Snake's artificially rapid aging and the wish on one or both of their parts to avoid a Mayfly–December Romance. There's a much larger contingent that think of Big Boss and Ocelot as exes.
  • Super Smash Bros. Ultimate: It's uncommon, but some fans think of Galeem and Dharkon as former romantic partners.
  • Tales of Symphonia:
    • In slash fandom, if Kratos/Yuan is not happening in the present, it tends to be something acknowledged as having happened in the past.
    • In more mainstream shipping, one theory about why Sheena and Zelos have the Slap-Slap-Kiss dynamic that they do is that they dated or at least were mutually interested at some point in the past, but one or the other broke it off/put on the brakes before they could get started, and neither is really over it.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • Mia Fey and Lana Skye. Lana claims that they were "intellectually attracted" in the past, which fandom took as Les Yay.
    • Phoenix/Dahlia is unusual example. In the canon they never dated. Major plot twist is that Phoenix was actually dating Dahlia's nice twin sister Iris, and before that he only met Dahlia once when she gave him plot-relevant necklace. Still there are fans who believe that there was a period between getting the necklace and Iris switching places with Dahlia when Phoenix dated actual Dahlia.


    Web Animation 

    Western Animation 
  • In Adventure Time, Princess Bubblegum and Marceline are thought to have dated in the past by the majority of the fandom, as their estrangement appeared to go beyond just a broken friendship. This later turned out to be exactly the case, with several episodes making it clear that Marceline still pines for her. At the end of the series, they rekindle their romance.
  • Beast Wars: One interpretation towards Megatron and Dinobot's relationship was that they broke up by the start of the series, which could explain some of the former's behavior towards him (such as him repeatedly cloning Dinobot, which could be seen as him being unable to get over his absence).
  • Centaurworld has Zulius and Splendib as potential exes, with their intense rivalry over the Be Best Competition.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Many fans believe that Princess Celestia and Discord are exes. Though a smaller faction have Princess Luna as the one who was in a relationship with Discord (which would make sense, seeing as Luna had her own dark period).
    • Some fans believe that Rainbow Dash and Gilda had at least a fling when they were younger.
  • Total Drama: In the Island special, Noah has a never-before-mentioned rivalry with Justin, calling him "the anti-me." Since Noah is often thought to be attracted to men and Justin has always been subject to Even the Guys Want Him, one common theory is that Noah and Justin had a fling at the Playa des Losers.