Our hero certainly spends a lot of time rescuing that princess, so he must really care about her. And it's a safe bet that she really cares about him, so it's only natural to assume they're more than Just Friends, right? But wait had anyone actually said that the two of them are together, or are you just assuming? Is the character denying the truth or stating it when he says "She Is Not My Girlfriend"? Is it Not What It Looks Like — or is it? We could ask questions all day.
The Implied Love Interest is when one character fills the role of a Love Interest to another character in the narrative, or otherwise has a lot of tropes related to being a Love Interest surrounding them, but nothing explicit in the narrative or from the creators is ever stated on the matter. One reason for this trope is in a serial work, it allows the author to gently cover their bums when it comes to either Ship Sinking ("Hey, the ship never set sail in the first place") or Cleaning Up Romantic Loose Ends ("The potential was there from the start"). The writer may state that they Hooked Up Afterwards, or leave it to the reader's imagination. Expect there to be at least some fans who pair the couple up regardless.
A variation of this trope, known as Developers' Desired Date, also happens a lot in video games where the player has more than one possible love interest. One character will often be the "preferred" option, with the most work gone into their romantic "route," hints nudging the player in their direction early on (such as being the first one the player runs into), or just the easiest to connect with unless the player deliberately chooses to go with another choice.
Naturally, this goes hand-in-hand — though whether palms cupped or fingers laced, we couldn't tell you — with Ship Tease. If the relationship is left ambiguous because the characters are of the same sex, it's either Hide Your Lesbians, or Homoerotic Subtext. Or, if the "couple" in question are close relatives, it's Incest Subtext.
Compare with The Not-Love Interest, where the motivations and interactions are typically reserved for a love interest but the romantic relationship doesn't actually exist.
Contrast with Designated Love Interest; an Implied Love Interest is not canonically the "true" love interest, but is written with such chemistry that one suspects otherwise, whereas a Designated Love Interest is canonically the "true" love interest, but is written with very underwhelming romantic chemistry.
- The Harvey Comics Casper the Friendly Ghost series has Casper and Wendy, when the two cross over, as inseparable best friends who have been so since time out of mind. The two are both good members of races that the world thinks are Always Chaotic Evil (in this comic, Our Ghosts Are Different makes ghosts just one more of the Enchanted Forest's fantasy races, not dead humans or dead anything. Witches are also a Mage Species, though magic must also be learned. Usually, ghosts scare people and witches play magical pranks and both treat this as their job in life—yes, 'life' applying to ghosts too in this case.) Of course, we never get confirmed non-platonic-ness.
- PS238: Julie and Tyler. They spend a significant amount of time together, she keeps finding excuses to hug him (despite the fact that she's super strong and he's not), he gives her some confidence-building advice, she saves his life with a blood transfusion, and when they go to an alien planet he's even named as her "consort" (they're pretty sure that means "sidekick"). The only reason this is implied rather than actual is that they're both ten years old, and clearly haven't thought about anything like that yet.
- Hints of Hippolyta and Philippus being in a relationship were dropped as early as Wonder Woman (1987), and became more heavy-handed in Wonder Woman (2006) where Gail Simone intended to have them get married, but their relationship didn't make it into the comic before it was cut short for Wonder Woman: Odyssey. The queen and her captain of the guard were finally in a confirmed relationship for the one-shot "Generations", and their relationship made it into the main continuity in Wonder Woman (Rebirth).
- In Calvin and Hobbes, Susie is one for Calvin. They're both little kids, so they can't actually date, but occasionally it's hinted that one has a crush on the other. For instance, when Calvin sends her a Valentine, even though the card disses her and is brought with dead flowers and leads to Susie throwing a snowball at him, both walk away concluding that the other one likes them. Complicating things further is the fact that they're friends, but with a great deal of rivalry, and Calvin thinks Girls Have Cooties.
- In the Modesty Blaise strip (also adapted in novels and movies) many people assume that the titular character and her sidekick Willie Garvin are an item, though, in fact, their relationship is strictly platonic. Lampshaded in the fact that many of Willie's real girlfriends are often portrayed as being jealous of his feelings towards Modesty.
- Breaking The Chains is not listed as a Blake/Weiss story but there's an air of shipping to it. Much of the dialogue is lifted straight from Blake and Yang's romantically tinged dialogue.
- 9 has the title character and 7. He looks rather smitten the first time he sees her unmasked, they clearly grow quite fond of each other over the course of the film, and they're holding hands in the final scene, but overall things are left ambiguous enough that a platonic reading of their relationship is as valid as a romantic one.
- Eggs and Winnie in The Boxtrolls. The two share several bonding moments, and are shown to really enjoy dancing with each other at one point, but nothing is confirmed by the end of the movie.
- Inside Out: Jordan, for Riley. The alarm that goes off on his head shows that he is shy around her, but because it's a repetition of "GIRL!", it's unclear if this means he has a crush on her or is nervous of girls in general. In the sequel short Riley's First Date?, the two hang out together, but it's never confirmed if this is her first date (hence the question mark in the title).
- Tigress from Kung Fu Panda has some ambiguous Ship Tease with Po. Tigress is his favorite of the Furious Five and a lot of their interactions in the first film revolve around Tigress learning to respect Po. Kung Fu Panda 2 adds onto their relationship by having them hug more than once and having Tigress show more concern for him than the others. Despite this, there's nothing 100% concrete that implies they like one another as anything but close friends.
- Discussed in Megamind. Roxanne explains to Bernard/Megamind that everyone just assumed she and Metroman were a couple, when they were not.
- Mulan and Captain Li Shang in Mulan. They blush around each other and Mulan asks the captain to stay for dinner, but no one outright says that they are a couple. Subverted in the second movie when they get married.
- Mrs. Brisby and Justin have their Ship Tease in The Secret of NIMH, but ultimately their minds are on other things besides romance.
- Miles Morales and Gwen Stacy in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. By the end of the movie they have become friends with hints of a future romance between them. Additionally, advertising for the movie featured them going on a date together, and the film's epilogue implies that they have found a way to contact each other across dimensions.
- The Super Mario Bros. Movie: Mario and Peach, like in the games, have an amount of Ship Tease between them. Their movie counterparts have completely different backstories and characterization for them, making their interactions different from how the games were, going from princess and bodyguard to two complete strangers meeting for the first time. Mario's relationship with Peach hints of the idea of a romantic interest but doesn't go anywhere (for now at least). Mario himself gets picked on by Donkey Kong for how badly he "flirts" with her, though Mario denies he was doing anything like that, not showing any particular romantic interest in Peach outside of seemingly in awe of her prowess after seeing her complete her obstacle course. Peach herself never confirms or denies she has any sort of affection for Mario. Despite this, the two bond rather quickly and enjoy each other's company, and with them holding hands after they reunite at Bowser's crashed wedding, there is a strong possibility of them developing a romance in the future.
- Poppy and Branch in Trolls. Branch is heavily implied to be in love with Poppy, and she seems to reciprocate by the end of the movie, but in the end nothing is confirmed. It is worth noting that their most predominate duet together is Cyndi Lauper's 'True Colors", a classic love ballad and the scene itself gives off a rather romantic vibe. However, also worth noting is that they don't do anything more than hug, and romantic kissing among trolls is shown to exist in the film's opening number. The sequel focuses on Branch trying to confess his feelings to her.
- Judy and Nick in Zootopia. It's been clearly established by Word of God that they are Platonic Life-Partners by the end of the movie. Whether they will remain that way in the future or develop a romantic relationship is an endless source of debate within the fandom. Even the writers, producers, and voice actors can't agree. One of the directors, in particular, doesn't get tired of hinting there's something between them and maybe they will become a thing in future works. The directors have fully acknowledged that this issue has to be addressed if a sequel is made.
- Father of the Bride (2022): Cora Herrera is given no heterosexual love interest and is constantly shown to be developing a close bond throughout the film with her sister Sofia's bridesmaid Vanessa. This makes it clearly hinted in a strong manner that a romance is developing between the two. This is right down to Vanessa constantly spending time with Cora to help her with the dresses and the two then dancing at the reception together.
- Fred Ayres and Honey Hale in Flying Down to Rio. They're in each other's company a lot, they dance together (naturally), and the last shot is of them drinking champagne together. They seem like a Beta Couple except that they don't do anything overtly romantic onscreen.
- Zach and Magenta in Sky High (2005). They're frequently together in scenes, both like to snark at the rest of the cast, dance together at Homecoming (after snarking about how stupid school dances are), and he even compliments her legs while she's in guinea pig form.
- Star Wars:
- Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia in Star Wars: A New Hope. The original advertising even said that she and Luke were "in love", which, given how that worked out, is now Hilarious in Hindsight. Even today, people who haven't seen all the Star Wars movies tend to assume that she is Luke's girlfriend.
- The Force Awakens seems to kind of be heading in the Rey/Finn direction, but there's very little concrete evidence to point to; it could all be read as platonic too. And who knows what the deal is with Poe!The Last Jedi reaffirms Finn and Rey are just friends and instead focuses on the romantic tension between Rey and Kylo Ren/Ben Solo who share a Force connection, while Finn is paired with Rose Tico.
- Rogue One depicts certain chemistry between Jyn and Cassian, which culminates in an intense Held Gaze during an elevator ride that leaves a lot of things left unspoken. All things considered, it's a case of "what might have been" had they only had more time to share together before their deaths.
- Jannah to Finn in The Rise of Skywalker. There's never anything explicitly romantic between them, but Jannah becomes close to Finn quite quickly (to the point of being willing to die at his side) and spends more time with him than any other protagonist. For his part, Finn is excited and admiring when he learns he's not the only defected stormtrooper out there, and trusts Jannah enough to have her at his side in battle. According to Naomi Ackie, the romantic angle of Jannah and Finn's relationship was intentional.
- Pacific Rim: Mako Mori and Raleigh Becket, as it's unclear whether they are this, Like Brother and Sister, or Just Friends. The ending leaves it ambiguous when they share a Headbutt of Love instead of the expected The Big Damn Kiss.
- Richie Rich: Richie Rich and Gloria Pazinski are presented with the outlet of being Just Friends. However, given the amount of time they are shown together more than the others, it's not hard to imagine that a romance is blossoming and would still be prevalent like in the comics. This is even more evident with Richie mostly communicating to Gloria, their singular friendship being the most developed of the group, that she eventually wanted to go to his house without a bribe, he got control of Rich Industries specifically to reopen United Tool when she let him know Van Dough closed it and that he sought her help specifically after breaking Cadbury out of prison first and foremost.
- X-Men Film Series
- X-Men: First Class:
- The relationship between Magneto and Mystique is a little vague.
- Sebastian Shaw and Emma Frost; his term of endearment for her is "love," and he calls her "the most exquisite thing I've ever seen in my life." There's also this line:
Emma Frost: If that telepath gets inside your head, he won't be as much fun as I am.
- Charles Xavier and Moira MacTaggert may have developed a romance while he was recovering from his injury because he kisses her at the end.
- X-Men: Days of Future Past:
- Much like X-Men: The Last Stand, it's left rather vague whether or not Bobby and Kitty had anything going on. The Rogue Cut makes it explicit because they kiss twice. Come Cosmic Retcon, Bobby is back to being in a relationship with Rogue. Kitty and Colossus co-teaching a class may mean something between them as well.
- Erik and Raven. When she's holding a spike to his throat, he just quips, "It's been a while since we were this close." There is also a hint when Charles asks Erik for the second time, "How is she [Raven]?", and Charles' facial expression when he hears the answer reads, "Oh, god, he has slept with my sister."
Erik: She was... we were... I could see why she meant so much to you.
- In the "Double Take: Xavier & Magneto" featurette on the Blu-Ray release, Michael Fassbender mentions that his character is "…very close to Mystique, he has very strong feelings for her." On one of the commentaries of The Rogue Cut, Bryan Singer states matter-of-factly that Erik was Mystique's lover.
- X-Men: First Class:
- The Eagle (2011): Marcus and Esca. While they do become Fire-Forged Friends, there's no mention of a wife or girlfriend for either of them—aside from Marcus checking out two native women. A planned end to the film had them discussing their plans for the future. There are also questionable lines like this.
Marcus: I thought I'd lost you.
- Rita and Cage in Edge of Tomorrow, at least in the original script. They develop their friendship through training and although neither shows overt romantic interest in each other, Cage clearly becomes quite attached to Rita and she to him. Rita's quick kiss before the final battle was an ad-lib by Emily Blunt—and things are left in a Maybe Ever After situation.
- It's left open with Kaulder and Chloe in The Last Witch Hunter. A kiss between them was filmed but cut from the finished product. While she helps him get over his wife's death, Chloe is significantly younger than him (twenty years between the actors) and it's never stated whether things are romantic or more of a surrogate father/daughter pairing.
- In Centurion Gorlacon was The Mentor to Etain, but he has no wife in sight and he displays particular affection for her.
- Chronicles of the Kencyrath: Jame and Bane in the first book. They have serious Foe Romance Subtext: they fascinate each other, and parallel each other as foils. They could be quite the Mind Game Ship. Despite this, the subtext always stays highly ambiguous for a few reasons. In the first couple books—the ones Bane mostly appears in—Jame seems pretty asexual. At the end of the first book, they are revealed to be half-siblings, which is usually a form of Ship Sinking.note Still, their final meeting ends with a Forceful Kiss… but it's not clear whether attraction was really a motive. It was a Kiss of Distraction, to catch her off guard her long enough Bane could push her through a hidden door. He also did it so he could bite through her lip—he was trying to do some Blood Magic. So who knows what to make of all that. All we can really say is that the first book manages to have a lot of subtext while staying very vague.
- Ciaphas Cain keeps the exact nature of the relationship between Cain and Amberly Vail deliberately ambiguous, what with Cain writing the stories and Vail editing them. The attraction is definitely there, and it's heavily implied they have a sexual relationship on the odd occasions they meet up, but anything more than that is in the realm of speculation. The closest it ever gets to confirmation is when a Slaaneshi sorceress projects a Glamour that makes Cain see her as Vail, while the others with him see someone different, and afterwards he concludes that the glamour made the target see someone they care about.
- In The ColSec Trilogy, there's nothing to unequivocally establish Cord and Samella as an Official Couple. That said, it's pretty clear by the end of the trilogy that Cord is in love with Samella, and there are hints that Samella probably reciprocates.
- The Girl from the Miracles District: Zelda and Nikita. It's very clear that Nikita cares deeply about Zelda, and Zelda seems to reciprocate the feeling, but neither is keen on making any move towards a Relationship Upgrade, so they're stuck in a weird space in-between.
- The Snow Queen is a bit ambiguous about the relationship between Gerda and Kai. Near the beginning they're described as friends who are as close as siblings; she does kiss him when she saves him, but it's not clear if that's meant to be romantic. You can find adaptations where they get together, are just friends, or get actually rewritten as siblings.
- David Petrakis to the protagonist Melinda Sordino in Speak. David and Melinda share several classes and are lab partners in Biology. He is also one of her very few friends due not caring about her being branded a social outcast after calling the police during a Wild Teen Party before the school year began, Melinda even refers to him as "her hero", and they seem a bit protective of each other. It's more prominent in the book, with a few cute moments on Valentine's Day and a mention that David watches her when he thinks she doesn't notice. For rather understandable reasons, though, (namely, the fact that Melinda was raped at the aforementioned party, hence why she called the cops, and much of the novel centers around her recovery process) it never really goes anywhere beyond them simply being friends.
- In Thieves Like Us, the exact relationship between Con and Motti is difficult to pinpoint. While the two mostly interact as friends and co-workers, there is one part in the first book where Motti looks after Con while she has a Heroic BSoD and admits he feels something for her, but suspects she wouldn't reciprocate. When she wakes up, she tells him she heard some of what was going on around her, and adds that he is the sort of guy she could be with. Even after this though, the two never actually share romantic scenes and show no indication that they might do so.
- In The Traitor Son Cycle, it's pretty obvious that there's something between Irene and Walks on Clouds, as the two are far more affectionate with each other than people tend to be after two weeks of knowing one another, but with Walks on Clouds, one never knows what he/she's thinking, and Irene's feeling are in enough non-romantic turmoil that she doesn't even begin to think about this.
- In Vampire Academy, Janine Hathaway and Ibrahim "Abe" Mazur have very close interactions by the end of the series. Rose suspects that they are having Sex with the Ex and that she might get a "surprise sibling" of her own. Her suspicions remain unconfirmed.
- The Wicked Years:
- There's an implied something between Crope and Tibbett in Wicked, but it's never explicitly mentioned. The two are inseparable, they're both explicitly gay, and Tibbett gets jealous when Crope introduces Fiyero to their friends until Fiyero notes that he's already married. Still, nothing is ever discussed in-text.
- Elphaba and Glinda's exact relationship is vague. There are signs of an attraction between the two but it never goes anywhere onscreen and the two eventually part ways halfway through the first book, with Elphaba dying a few years later. Glinda continues to mourn "Elphie" for years afterwards. Elphaba's relationship with Glinda is much harder to pin down. She's affectionate towards her and they do share a parting kiss (whether it's platonic or romantic is ambiguous), but her feelings aren't nearly as strong. Nearly twenty years afterwards, romantic feelings between the two was confirmed by the author.
- All Creatures Great & Small (2020): Though Siegfried Farnon dates other women over the course of the show, his true emotional partner and confidante is his housekeeper Audrey Hall, The Heart and Team Mum of Skeldale's ad hoc family, in whom he seems to have complete trust and who brings out his softest side. She is also the only person he will listen to when he's being particularly bombastic and mercurial.
- Blake's 7 did this to various degrees for Blake/Jenna, Avon/Cally, Tarrant/Dayna, and Avon/Soolin.
- Doctor Who:
- Generally assumed for most 1960s man/woman companion pairs — Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright, Ben Jackson and Polly Wright, and Jamie McCrimmon and Victoria Waterfield. The first two of these were eventually made canon by a throwaway line in The Sarah Jane Adventures, which revealed that Ian and Barbara had married and that Ben and Polly were a "couple". Jamie and Victoria got very Ship Teasey and then thoroughly sunk when Victoria decides to stay in the 1960s. Steven and Dodo were mostly immune, but the Expanded Universe goes into some heavy UST with Steven and Sara.
- Despite being No Hugging, No Kissing, the original series has several of the Doctor/companion relationships possessing a romantic tinge, namely Three/Jo, Four/Sarah Jane, and especially Four/Romana. Four/Sarah Jane was finally made canon after 30 years in the New-Who episode "School Reunion", in which the Tenth Doctor told Sarah Jane that his Fourth incarnation had loved her but chosen not to pursue the relationship for various reasons.
- The Doctor and the Master are widely assumed to have either a highly dysfunctional relationship or a romance that went sour. Not at all hurt by the new series laying on Ship Tease so thick it could be cut with a chainsaw. Even moreso when the Master regenerates as a woman.
- The Second Doctor and Jamie, mostly because the actors both thought it would be fun to play them like this. Keep in mind that this was in the 1960s, when homosexuality was still illegal in Britain (although by that point barely ever prosecuted).
- Key West only managed to last 12 episodes, but in those 12, Seamus O'Neill and Savannah Sumner would flirt with each other in every single scene they were in together. And this was way above and beyond the normal flirtatious manner that Savannah had due to her being the show's resident Hooker with a Heart of Gold. Fans of the show assumed they'd eventually hook up. The show was cancelled before anything concrete happened, unfortunately.
- The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: By the end of the first season, Galadriel and Halbrand appears to have formed a very deep bond with each other, the two even seeming to confess their feelings for each other following the Battle for the Southlands, though whether their sentiment is meant to be romantic or platonic is left up in the air as they are swiftly interrupted. The constant Ship Tease between the characters, Held Gazes and setup of the scene seem to strongly indicate the former though.
Galadriel: Thank you… for pulling me back.Halbrand: It was you who pulled me back first.Galadriel: Whatever it was he did to you, and whatever it is that you did, be free of it.Halbrand: I never believed I could be… until today. Fighting at your side, I… I felt… If I could just hold on to that feeling, keep it with me always, bind it to my very being, then I…Galadriel: I felt it too.
- In an alternate future of Star Trek: Enterprise, the now elderly Captain Jonathan Archer is being cared for by T'Pol. However, an injury prevents him from remembering all that's happened since he was last on the Enterprise. T'Pol says to him that she fully understands that he might consider all this to be an illusion or an elaborate deception. To alleviate his fears she tells him the story of an old girlfriend he wanted to marry back on Earth. The stunned Archer wants to know just what kind of 'relationship' he and T'Pol have that he'd ever tell her the story. She'll only say their relationship has "evolved".
- The folk song "The Assumption Song" has an unnamed man and woman who seem to have chemistry, but it's unknown if they're a couple. The Subverted Rhyme Every Occasion means that it initially seems like she has sex with him, lets him grope her, and admires his package, but she actually did nothing of the sort. However, even though they didn't have sex or grope, they still show some signs of romance— she "rubs her eyes at" him and they hold hands. She has kids, but it's unknown if she's married or a single mother.
- Jim Stafford's song "My Girl Bill", despite its name, uses Exact Words to imply that the (male) singer is in a relationship with a man named Bill, whom he is calling "My Girl Bill." At the end, it turns out that he and Bill are competing over the same woman; the singer has been saying, "Don't get between me and my girl, Bill."
- The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee has Olive Ostrovsky and William Barfée. They're the last two spellers left in the competition by the end and their rivalry throughout the show quickly turns to mutual respect and companionship; in fact, their subplots are the only two that interact with each other, with the other characters being concerned with winning the Bee for their own reason. At one point, Olive shyly tells Barfée her name is an anagram of "I love" and Barfée briefly considers throwing the competition for her. Despite all this, the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue simply calls them "friends."
- Sollux and Aradia from Homestuck. It's implied that they dated in the past, with Vriska outright referring to Sollux as Aradia's boyfriend immediately before mind-controlling him into killing her, but even that's relatively ambiguous (especially since trolls have four forms of romance). This former relationship was later clarified to mean a moraillegiance. Still, there's a lot of Ship Tease between the two and the occasional implication of an actual relationship, but nothing concrete either way.
- Tower of God: Bam chooses to follow Rachel where ever she may go, even if that includes fighting sea monsters even though he had to be taught why people would use violence at all few months prior. Many note that this has a romantic notion to it and the author (of course) hasn't said a thing about their relationship status. She could be a mother figure, big sister, best friend or love interest.
- Binary Stars: While it isn't explicit, Half-Human Hybrid Kass takes every opportunity to be near Joana, often with a blush on her face.
- In Hector's World, Tortoisenapper Quince blushes when he sees Senorita Ortega and leaves her flowers, but he doesn't say that he's in love.
- In Resident Evil Abridged, Chris implies that he's attracted to his partner, Jill Valentine, when he describes her as, "a hot straight-talking woman". Though it's never said how she feels about him.