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Old Flame

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A couple who have drifted apart for various reasons (not necessarily Star-Crossed Lovers), only to discover they still have feelings for each other when they get together a lot later. The key part of this trope is that the feelings (even if one-sided) persist after their reunion.

Subtropes include New Old Flame (the old flame who was not known to the audience until coming back) and Old Flame Fizzle (the old flames reunite but there's no "spark"). Contrast Working with the Ex, wherein no romantic feelings remain long before the reunion. If the character never appears in the work, it's probably The One That Got Away.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Asteroid in Love, while Mira's and Ao's dynamic is more properly one of reunited Childhood Friends, it is portrayed in a way not unlike this trope. In the first episode of the Funimation dub, Moe even calls Ao Mira's "old flame."
  • The entire plot of Blue Spring Ride revolves around this trope. Futaba and Kou both liked each other in middle school, but since Futaba accidentally hurt Kou's feelings and Kou moved away before she could apologize, nothing came out of it. When Kou moves back, he insists that even if they did like each other, it was all in the past and they've changed too much to return to their previous relationship. However, both of them still have feelings for each other, leading to lots of Unresolved Sexual Tension.
  • Highschool of the Dead: Zigzagged with Takashi and Rei.
    • They were an item back in middleschool, but they drifted apart when Rei was forced to repeat her Junior year. Since she wouldn't open up to him about itnote , he began to ignore her; leaving Rei feeling she'd been abandoned. So she began dating his best friend Hisashi, who provided her with the emotional support she needed.
    • Takashi hid his resentment towards their relationship, not knowing Rei still harbored feelings for him, until after Hisashi was killed during the outbreak. They eventually reconciled after Rei confessed to him, while they were at the Takagi estate.
  • UFO Robo Grendizer: In the second Mazinger Z sequel, Duke -the main character- and Rubina -the Big Bad's daughter-. Their marriage was arranged when they were children, and they liked each other. However their relationship broke off when King Vega invaded and destroyed Duke's homeworld. Rubina believed that Duke died, and Duke grew to hate Vegans. Several years later, she met him again, and both acknowledged they kept loving each other in spite of everything.

    Audio Play 
  • In The Firesign Theatre's "The Further Adventures of Nick Danger", Betty Jo Bialosky ("Nancy") went to college with Nick, and they even dated, but when he proposed, she turned him down, and couldn't tell him why. He hadn't seen her since, until she suddenly reappears, asking for his help. "Suddenly, it all came rushing back to me, like the hot kiss at the end of a wet fist!"

    Comic Books 
  • Scrooge McDuck and Goldie O'Gilt from the Disney Ducks Comic Universe. Between Scrooge leaving the Klondike and their reunion in the Carl Barks story Back to the Klondike they haven't seen each other for decades! (According to Don Rosa, Scrooge was circa 32 at the end of his Klondike years, and older than 80 years in stories taking place in the "present".)
  • Supergirl: Pre-Crisis Kara Zor-El/Linda Danvers and her childhood crush Dick Malverne dated for a while but they drifted apart during their college years. Several years later, when Kara is twenty-four they meet again. It turns out that Dick was seeking her out because he was dying from cancer and wanted to confess he still loved her before dying. They shared a kiss the night he finally passed away.
  • Monet was treated as this for Sabretooth in Weapon X (2017). The teams receives a mission to save her, which Creed says isn't about money. When he gives a briefing on Monet, Deathstrike concludes she's his ex which causes Creed to get defensive. Despite his denials of having romantic feelings for Monet, he gets very flustered when he tells her how good it is to see her again. Later when being held prisoner by Stryker's cult, Creed finally has a chance to speak with Monet & apologize for leaving her when she was cursed by Emplate, but she doesn't blame him due to how evil she became. As he prepares to tell her something, a giant heart appears behind them, seemingly confirming lingering feelings

    Fan Works 
  • HERZ: Kurumi had a crush on Shinji since they met in high-school. However he was always in love with Asuka. She spent years chasing after him, but she never managed to get him to reciprocate her feelings, and her attempts to seduce him were impulsive and ill-though-out and alienated him further. When the story begins she meets him again after seven years, she still has a crush on him, but Shinji is married to Asuka and has a daughter. And even so she keeps chasing after him and he keeps running away from her.
  • In Advice and Trust, Misato and Kaji are this to each other. In chapter 8, Misato tells Kaji that she's tired of dancing around the issue and she wants them to get together again.
  • Misato and Kaji in Thousand Shinji. They got back together for a while after Shinji got stuck inside Unit-01. Unfortunately Kaji got assassinated a short while later.
  • Children of an Elder God: Misato and Kaji were a couple during their college days. They broke up, but they got back together during the War. Unfortunately he died later on.
  • Ghosts of Evangelion: Misato and Kaji became a couple, broke up, got back together, and got killed. Once Kaji returns from the Red Sea they resume their relationship and eventually get married.
  • In The Second Try, Misato and Kaji were rekindling their failed relationship since the first chapter, despite of Misato declaring that they were NOT together again. In the epilogue itís revealed that Misato is expecting his baby.
  • Last Child of Krypton: Misato and Kaji were in a relationship when they were college students, but they broke up (and Misato blamed herself for it). They got back together when they were trying to stop Gendo's plans.
  • In Higher Learning, Kaji and Misato. They were playing the Will They or Won't They? game for a while until they got back together after Kaji got almost assassinated.
  • In The Child of Love, Misato and Kaji got back together during an Obon Festival when she admitted that she never got over him.
  • Once More with Feeling: Misato and Kaji. Kaji wants to hook up with her again, but Shinji warned him that they DID get back together in the original timeline but his death broke Misato, so Kaji decided to wait until the war was over to flirt with Misato.
  • In The One I Love Is... Misato and Kaji got back together during the story, but he had to fake his death to expose SEELE.
  • In Superwomen of Eva 2: Lone Heir of Krypton Misato and Kaji -who had broken up several years before the beginning of the story- got back together during the War.
  • In See the Stars, Diana and Jonah are introduced as this. They loved each other very much, then a coup lead to Diana's almost-a-decade-long imprisonment and they were separated. She comes out of it pretty messed up, but eventually they work through her trauma and find their way back together.
  • In My Huntsman Academia, Toshinori and Glynda are depicted as this. They were extremely close during their days as Beacon Academy students, to the point that Toshinori was willing to divulge the secret of One For All to her in his second year. As much as they cared about each other, they drifted apart as Toshinori went out adventuring as the Symbol of Peace while Glynda devoted herself to training the next generation of Huntsmen and Huntresses. They begin to catch up again after he takes up a teaching position at Beacon to look after Izuku and they clearly enjoy each other's company.

  • In Asako I & II, Baku comes back to Asako after seven years of being The One That Got Away.
  • In Casino Royale (1954)note  Bond and Valerie (a Composite Character of Vesper Lynd and René Mathis from the novel) have a past together, and they both still have feelings for each other. Complicating matters is that Valerie is working for Le Chiffre, Bond's antagonist.
  • Holly Slept Over: Holly was Audra's college roommate and girlfriend, who contacts her many years later to visit. Audra's husband Noel is instantly attracted to her. Audra remains attracted to Holly, and they have a threesome together.
  • In Hopscotch, Isobel von Schoenenberg and Miles Kendig were two spies who drifted apart because of their careers. After Miles is forced into retirement he gets back together with Isobel (now a widower). They then proceed to go at it as if they'd never stopped. Their efforts to keep Miles ahead of both the KGB and CIA when he decides to write his memoirs are quite heartwarming.
  • In Life as a House, Robin is in an unhappy marriage with her second husband. She falls back in love with her first husband while reconnecting with him over the summer, which is conveniently timed as he is dying.
  • In Red (2010), Victoria and Ivan are each other's old flames. They were assassins on opposite sides of the Cold War, and she was assigned to kill him. He wears the scar in his chest proudly because he knows if she hadn't loved him, she would've shot him in the head instead. He gets to get her out of a jam, and treats it like a great romantic moment.
  • Red Rocket: Lexi and Mikey were high school sweethearts who became a porn star couple, and when he returns to Texas, they're still technically married. However, though she genuinely starts gaining feelings for him again, Mikey is only manipulating her to improve his domestic situation and immediately turns cold to her once he starts hooking up with Strawberry.
  • X-Men Film Series:
    • X-Men: Days of Future Past: In The Rogue Cut, Mystique and Beast definitely still have feelings for each other despite being separated for over a decade. Mystique was even romantically involved with Magneto before he was incarcerated, but her first choice back in 1962 was Hank.
    • X-Men: Apocalypse: Charles and Hank still carry torches for Moira and Raven, respectively.

  • Elaine and Harry from The Dresden Files. Harry, at least, still feels something for her.
  • Lampshaded in an Erast Fandorin short story Tea in Bristol, wherein the victim's old flame actually goes by the surname "Flame" (and is well in her fifties).
  • In Agatha Christie's The Hollow, John Christow cheats on both his wife and his mistress with an old girlfriend who dumped him because he wouldn't sacrifice his career for her. As a result, he gets murdered. By his possessively-loving wife.
  • The Helmsman Saga has Margot Effer'wyck, Wilf Brim's love. She got married to other men twice (and had a kid), was presumed dead, had a drug addiction which forced her to betray Wilf, he finds other women every book and believed more than once that he truly left her and his feelings behind... Somehow, she always manages to pop back. The (currently) last book leaves an open ending on the matter.
  • In Tim Powers' The Drawing of the Dark: Epiphany Hallstadt, née Vogel, who Duffy once thought he was going to marry. She now works at the Zimmerman Inn, where Duffy has just been hired as a bouncer.
  • Love the One You're With by Emily Giffen runs on this trope. The main character, Ellen, is Happily Married to Andy, but one day she runs into her ex-boyfriend Leo, who left her heartbroken with no explanation and whom she could never quite forget. The plot revolves around whether she'll stay with Andy, who brings out the best in her, or choose to be with Leo, the man she never got over. The tagline demonstrates this quite well:
    How can I truly love the one I'm with when I can't forget the one who got away?
  • In Vampire Academy, Aaron was Lissa's boyfriend before she ran away from St. Vladimir's Academy. She still had feelings for her. He pursued her romantically following her return. They briefly got back together, but his love was unrequited.
  • In Shaman Blues, Witkacy discovers he's still hung up on Konstancja when she reappears after fifteen years.
  • The Gilded Wolves: Séverin and Laila had slept together prior to the beginning of book one, and have promised that it would never happen again, and that they should never be together.

    Live-Action TV 
  • As Time Goes By is about a pair who were lovers as youth; then they meet again after both have lost their respective spouses, and renew their romance as seniors.
  • Chuck: Chuck's ex, who was mentioned in the first 5 minutes of the pilot. Of course, he had no idea at that point that she was a Fulcrum agent and was forced to dump Chuck; she also lied about sleeping with his best friend, who never bothered to deny it. There's a good reason for this. Bryce did everything he could to keep Chuck from being recruited (Chuck's father asked him to). Telling Chuck that he didn't sleep with Chuck's girl would prompt Chuck to investigate further and get dangerously close to either CIA or Fulcrum.
  • CSI is hinting around at this since the arrival of Julie Finn. It's known that D.B. never cheated on his wife, thanks to Word of God, but it's been implied they had something before D.B. met his wife. Possibly another high school scenario, since D.B. and his wife met there too.
  • Complicated by a Sibling Triangle where one of the sides is a Technically Living Plague Zombie in Helix.
    • Double Subverted for CDC team lead Alan. Though initially standoffish at the prospect of Working With, his ex-wife and fellow CDC scientist Julia, then outright combative as he bickers, he later confesses that its become Anger Born of Worry, and he can't stop feeling protective of her.
    • For Julia, this is Subverted with her relationship with ex-husband Alan. Though she appreciates Alan's concern, she not only doesn't reciprocate, but the sight of his brother Peter, Patient Zero in an outbreak of The Virus, brings back memories of her unhappy relationship with Alan, and the reasons she turned to Peter for comfort.
    • However, for both Peter and Julia, this is Played Straight, as an infected Peter, though acting on his viral programming, first attempts a tender kiss before resorting to a Deadly Lunge, and Julia later admits to herself that she still has feelings for Peter, in spite of the fact they haven't spoken since Alan caught them cheating.
  • Highlander did one in 'Glory Days', Joe was worried his high school flame that stopped in to visit would think him damaged due to losing his legs, but once she found out, it seemed for a bit that things were okay-until she confessed she was married and couldn't stay.
  • The M*A*S*H episode "The More I See You" has a pair of new nurses assigned to the 4077th. One of whom is Hawkeye's old med-school girlfriend. Who's now married. Which doesn't keep them from resuming their relationship for a spell.
  • Riverdale loves to do this with the parents' generation. The present day new couples of that generation (FP/Alice, Fred/Hermione, Tom/Sierra) are old flames from High School as seen in the Whole Episode Flashback The Midnight Club.

  • Bonnie Tyler: This is the theme of "Sitting on the Edge of the Ocean". The song narrates how Bonnie reunites with someone she used to love in the past and, while that affection had withered, her reunion with him has reignited her feelings. She even feels like going to the ocean to scream how much she (still) loves him.
  • "The One That Got Away (Came Back Today)" by Daniel Romano is written from the perspective of the Second Love, about what happens when the old flame comes back and turns the second love into "yesterday's news"/a third wheel.
  • "Remember the Time" by Michael Jackson is a Love Nostalgia Song about a person reminiscing about a past lover. In the music video for the song, Jackson plays a mysterious sorceror who is heavily implied to be a past lover to Pharoah Ramses II's Queen, as he sings the song to her and the two share a secret kiss later when she's alone in her bedchambers.
  • "Martha" by Tom Waits is about a man meeting up with an old love after 40 years when they're both married to reminisce and declare that he's still in love with her.
  • "That Ol' Wind" by Garth Brooks is about two people who still carry feelings for each other after their separation, but choose to reunite at a concert. The final verse reveals that each has a secret they're hiding from the other, but in the moment, rekindling their old flame is more important.
  • Joe Diffie's "New Way (to Light Up an Old Flame)," about a man making plans to woo an ex-girlfriend into loving him again.
  • Hinatazaka46:
    • In "Ai wa Kocchi no Mono da" ("Love is Here"), the singer bumps into their ex-girlfriend in a club and attempts to seduce her back, before realizing she's there with her boyfriend.
    • "Coelacanth" is about an encounter with an old crush and realizing that, like the fish, the singer's feelings are Not So Extinct after all.

  • In Dream Girl, Georgina has long been infatuated with Jim Lucas, who married her sister Miriam two years ago.
  • Ruddigore:
    • The newly reformed Despard reunites with Margaret, whom he had abandoned after being forced to turn evil, at the end of Act I.
    • Dame Hannah reunites with her long-lost love, Roderic, in Act II.

    Video Games 
  • The Yuktobanian recon Major Nastasya Obertas for Captain Bartlett in Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War.
  • Mass Effect: Adm. David Anderson and Lt. Kahlee Sanders (one of the main characters of the novel tie-ins) each consider the other this. They never got together due mainly to the demands of their respective jobs in the Alliance, but in Mass Effect 3 there's signs that they want to try again if they both survive the war. Anderson dies on the Citadel in the endgame; no word on Sanders.
  • In the backstory of X: Beyond the Frontier, Major Kyle Brennan and Lieutenant Elena Kho became very close during their time serving together in the United Space Command, to the point where their coworkers jokingly nicknamed them "the lovebirds." They did have a brief love affair but ended it by mutual agreement; however they each wondered for a very long time if such had been the right decision. By the time they start working together in the games, though, it's unclear if any feelings remain.
  • In Lost Horizon, Fenton and Kim are implied to be this to each other. While it's not explicitly stated how close they were, they saw enough of each other for Fenton's mechanic Gus to slyly raise the issue. Their reunion doesn't go smoothly (owing to Fenton's ruptured friendship with Kim's uncle), but they eventually end up together.
  • The Legend of Heroes: Kuro no Kiseki has Van Arkride and Elaine Auclaire, a pair of Childhood Friends who dated back in high school, but separated due to Van disappearing without a word. They still have feelings for each other come the main game, but Van has lots of emotional baggage that he'd like to resolve himself, causing him to alienate both her and their mutual friend René.

    Web Comic 
  • In UC,Jacob is introduced as this to Nicodemus fairly early in the comic. There is no mention of why they broke up, but if Iku's reaction is anything to go by Jacob was the instigator. Nicodemus is very much not over him.

    Western Animation 
  • In Adventure Time, Princess Bubblegum and Marceline have a long and rocky history that ended in a nasty breakup long before the series began. When their respective friendships with Finn gradually bring them back into each other's orbits, it's obvious they never quite got over each other.
  • In The Owl House Eda and Raine were romantically involved during their younger days, until Eda's secretiveness and defensiveness concerning her curse pushed them apart, and their interactions in the present show that there's still some attraction on both sides.