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Secret Stab Wound

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"Such was the severity of the situation, that no one noticed that Wolverine's wounds from the previous battle had not yet healed. And such is the calibre of the man known as Wolverine, that he pressed on, saying nothing at all to the others."

A subtrope of the Game-Breaking Injury and/or Bullet Holes and Revelations. When a character hides that they've received a GBI, and in some cases may be Secretly Dying. The key is that it's not necessarily revealed by a fight scene and that they hide it from their friends as well — differentiating it from Mortal Wound Reveal. Often accompanied by the injured party stating that "it was nothing", "I'm fine", or after the seriousness is discovered, "I Can Still Fight!".

Only a Flesh Wound if the character survives, and the Truth in Television aversion of the Instant Death Bullet when the injury is fatal. In the appropriate setting, this may lead to the sufferer becoming a Zombie Infectee. If the injury is discovered posthumously, it can fall into Time-Delayed Death. If someone is particularly good at hiding the wound, their friends might not notice until they collapse, or maybe not even until after that.

A subtrope to Clothing-Concealed Injury.

See also Hiding the Handicap and Belated Injury Realization.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Otonashi in Angel Beats! After the train he was on is derailed, and the survivors are stuck underground, Otonashi spends the next week helping everyone, despite the fact that he was badly injured. He kept this a secret so that no one would freak out. He dies seeing everyone getting rescued. Luckily he was able to donate his organs.
  • Captain Tsubasa: In the World Youth arc, Tsubasa suffers an abdominal wound the night prior to the Japan vs. Mexico match in the first round while practicing the Skydive Shoot, when he accidentally stabs himself with a . Despite how grave it is, Coach Gamo allows him to play because he knows the team will be gravely demoralized without their captain, and even though the wound ends up opening halfway through the game and he bleeds heavily, Tsubasa continues until the very end to ensure his team's victory.
  • While he's not fooling another character, November 11's death in Darker than Black fools the audience in a similar way as the GTO example- in both cases, the audience knows that they successfully took down a room full of enemies and knows they were injured, but doesn't realize how badly until you see a pool of blood flowing out of them.
  • Ban in Get Backers did a sort of Diving Save (without the diving) for Ginji who was about to be stabbed by Akabane's Sword. Afterwards, he led Ginji to believe that it was an illusion caused by his Magical Eye. He didn't reveal it till later.
  • In Great Teacher Onizuka, Onizuka is shot while rescuing a girl from kidnappers, but still turns up to an exam that he must take in order to keep his job. His injury is not revealed until the girl wakes up in hospital and asks why Onizuka isn't there too, and a pool of blood is seen under Onizuka's desk.
  • Gunslinger Girl. Hilshire gets shot in the gut during an assassination he carried out himself instead of leaving it to his cyborg. Triela notices something's wrong on his return to the hotel room and is so upset (she's conditioned to protect him at the cost of her own life) that she runs out on Hilshire despite his efforts to play down the injury.
  • One Piece has Roronoa Zoro. When the Straw Hat Pirates attack Arlong Park, Zoro's injured state WAS pretty clear, but his bandages hid just how serious those wounds are. When Arlong himself takes a peek, he's horrified by the fact that Zoro was still STANDING with a wound like that, and decided right there that this was someone he did NOT want to fight healthy.
  • In Robotech/Super Dimension Fortress Macross, Roy goes on a date with Claudia after coming back from a battle and collapses from the internal injuries he had sustained. He apparently knew he was wounded and refused medical treatment, perhaps because he suspected the doctors couldn't save him and wanted to see Claudia one last time before he passed away.
  • Date Masamune in the Sengoku Basara anime gets shot but doesn't reveal the injury until miles from the battlefield where he'd been riding his horse unconscious for quite a way. Leads to a Shirtless Scene and two I Can Still Fight! moments. A glorious injury all around.
    • It happens again in the movie Last Party when Masamune returns back to his mansion after fighting Mitsunari and has a brief conversation with Kojuro before his armor shatters in pieces and the gash to his neck reveals itself.
  • Lina from Slayers gets a stab injury early on, and doesn't tell Gourry about it. She casts a gradual healing spell on herself and relaxes in the sun, waiting for the wound to heal, and Gourry misunderstands that she's just being lazy. Until he grabs her by the arm and finds out that she was hurt; after apologizing to Lina, he grabs her in a Bridal Carry, much to her dismay.
  • In Tenchi Universe, Ryoko suffers one of these while fighting Kagato. The injury lingers through the penultimate episode, being further aggravated when Ryoko is attacked while disabling Jurai's planetary defenses. She holds out just long enough to pilot Ryu-Ohki to the landing docks of the Jurai Royal Palace and deliver Tenchi before passing out in front of a very worried Ryo-Ohki. We're led to believe that she died, but she didn't.
  • In Trigun, Vash the Stampede duels Brilliant Dynamites Neon to stop a runaway train (a huge runaway train ...). After his first clever maneuver, however, Vash accidentally rips concealed and previously bandaged wounds open and can't keep up his normally calm demeanor, falling down. Neon, fortunately, is a man of his word and helps stop the train.
  • Tsume in Wolf's Rain, probably. It's possible he just didn't realize he was that badly hurt until the adrenalin wore off since he seemed rather surprised to see a pool of his own blood. In any case, he doesn't get better.

    Comic Books 
  • Strongbow in ElfQuest TOS (he gets better).
  • In The Transformers (IDW) Spotlight: Hoist, Swerve intentionally uses his Motor Mouth tendencies to distract the others and keep them from noticing his nearly fatal wound.

    Fan Works 
  • In Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum, Professor McGonagall utterly thrashes Harry's group to demonstrate why they need further instruction, specifically hers. After she critiques their style, she leaves the room and reveals to Madam Pomfrey that she's actually rather badly injured and needs healing.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn Huck gets shot in the back while he and Jim are fleeing a lynch mob, and he tries to hide it so that Jim will escape.
  • A rare self-inflicted example forms the climax of Black Swan.
  • Also in Blood Diamond, where Danny Archer receives a fatal gunshot wound to the lungs. He survives long enough to help Solomon and Dia escape before peacefully dying from his wounds.
  • In the final scene of Children of Men, Kee sees blood on the bottom of the boat and assumes it's her own (she'd given birth a short time earlier), but Theo assures her he'd been shot minutes ago and just paid it no mind in the heat of the situation. Theo survives long enough to help Key escape before succumbing to his wound.
  • Andre the thug hid the fact that his wife was zombie-bitten in Dawn of the Dead (2004).
  • In The Deadly Duo, the younger of the duo suffers an Agonizing Stomach Wound, which he hides from his comrade so that they can continue their rescue mission.
  • In The Escapist, Frank seems not to pay his any mind, at least not until the timelines converge.
  • Gladiator: Maximus being stabbed by Commodus, before their public Duel to the Death. Because Commodus is a Villainous Underdog, he had to find some way to level the playing field a bit, but his praetorians just use it as another reason to turn against him as soon as Commodus starts losing the fight.
  • Kamen Rider Ryuki: In the film Kamen Rider Ryuki: Episode Final, Miho Kirishima (Kamen Rider Femme) suffers a fatal wound from Kamen Rider Ryuga, but hides the extent of it from Ryuki (who'd come to her aid), only dying after he leaves her to go home.
  • Ladyhawke: Phillipe hides from Navarre the fact that he mauled him while he was in wolf form.
  • Doctor Smith in the Lost in Space movie hides that he was bitten by a spider and is transforming into one.
  • Nicholas is stabbed at the end of The Reckoning when Lord de Guise gives him a hug, and he hides that fact in order to follow de Guise out of the Church so that the crowd can see what he did. This fact is also hidden from the audience until that point.
  • LJ also hides a zombie bite in Resident Evil: Extinction.
  • Seven Years in Tibet: While climbing with a team in the beginning in the movie, Heinrich conceals the severity of an injury, which leads to someone nearly dying when he is unable to support their weight.
  • Shaun's mum in Shaun of the Dead hides the fact that she's been mortally bitten by a zombie and will shortly become one so that Shaun wouldn't worry.
  • In Victoria (2015), the character of Sonne receives a gunshot wound during the shootout with the Police, but it's only revealed to the audience much later when the drugs and adrenaline have worn out and he collapses at the hotel.
  • In Baz Luhrmann's William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet, Mercutio plays off his mortal stab wound as not being that serious.

  • There's a famous joke about a captain or admiral who habitually wears a red jacket into battle so his crew won't notice if he gets wounded and therefore won't lose morale. The punchline comes when a huge enemy fleet is sighted and he requests brown pants in addition to the red jacket.

  • Older Than Print: Sir Gareth of Arthurian legend jousted with a Black Knight. Both knights were thrown from their horses on impact, but while Gareth was unharmed, the Black Knight's armor was penetrated and he abruptly fell dead during the ensuing swordfight.
  • In James Swallow's Black Tide, when Vetch takes a bullet for Rafen, Rafen calls him a fool, and he chides him as disrespectful and reveals that the wound he took in the fight before that one had been poisoned.
  • In Catch-22 when Yossarian's plane is hit with flak, his crewmate Snowden has a minor injury and appears to be in shock. We see snippets of Yossarian comforting Snowden all through the novel, thinking Snowden's injuries are minor - but Yossarian finally discovers "Snowden's secret" - an untreatably massive trauma that means Yossarian can only hold Snowden's hand and watch him die. This could almost be a trope namer, as it's a pretty famous example.
  • In the Doctor Who Eighth Doctor Adventures novel Fear Itself, the Doctor does this after getting more or less harpooned in the stomach while on a space station because he doesn't trust any of the medical staff around to help him. He buttons up his frock coat and Fitz performs some very basic first aid on him when they're back in their cabin. Good thing he can heal. Too bad he just has to go heroically carrying someone out of a fire before he gets better — his wound opens up again.
  • Quill Kipps in The Empty Grave is stabbed just before entering the Other Side. The injury doesn't affect him during the journey - in fact, he's even more at home on the Other Side because he's dying - but once the skull asks about it he and Lucy realise it's serious. He still decides to go back to the real world, though, even though it could kill him. Somewhat subverted in that he knew he was injured, but didn't realise how severe it was.
  • One section in a Forgotten Realms book describes a dwarven legend who got his belly cut open in a battle, but quickly tucked his innards into his shirt to prevent any of his men from noticing, and continued fighting.
  • The Lord of the Rings. After Frodo is pinned against a wall in Moria by an orc chieftain's spear, he says he can walk (and does so). After the Fellowship escapes, Frodo feels more pain with every step and is gasping for breath but doesn't tell anyone. Eventually, Legolas notices them falling behind the others and Aragorn treats Frodo's injury. (Frodo was wearing a mail-shirt, so the injury was a horrible blow with bruising and the rings driven into the flesh, but all in all not as bad as could have been.)
  • Pulled off very darkly in Terry Pratchett's Monstrous Regiment: The soldiers coming home from the war have their red coats buttoned up tight, even in the summer's heat... because they don't have any bandages.
  • In King of Attolia, the third entry of The Queen's Thief, Eugenides is attacked and wounded. He proceeds to make a huge stink about it, loudly cursing with every step and melodramatically declaring that his insides will soon become his outsides as he limps along with Costis' help, holding his side. His obnoxious complaining exasperates or amuses everyone around him, and Costis thinks that a man seriously wounded would never be able to ham it up this much. Only when they reach his room does everyone see that the wound goes all the way across his stomach and he's lost a great deal of blood—and that the big, extended tantrum was a much more effective smokescreen than stoically denying the pain would have been.
  • The Saga of the People of Vatnsdal: When the aged Ingimund chastises the villainous Hrolleif for unlawfully fishing in Ingimund's fishing waters, Hrolleif throws a spear at him which hits Ingimund mortally. Ingimund, who still wants to prevent bloodshed, especially as he himself has formerly offered his protection to Hrolleif, does not tell anyone and rides home hiding the wound under his cloak. Ingimund's serving-boy is the first to notice the wound when he helps Ingimund dismount, and when his sons come home in the evening they find Ingimund sitting dead in his high seat.
  • In John Moore's The Unhandsome Prince, the title character wins a tournament with an enchanted sword ... except that when he struck the winning blow, his opponent's dagger slipped beneath his breastplate and gravely wounded him. (The judges didn't see it.) Since the winner had bet on himself (at 100-1 odds), he couldn't reveal his injury or he'd lose the tournament (and his winnings, which he needed to keep his family from going bankrupt).
  • In the Warrior Cats book A Light in the Mist, after the villain is defeated, the characters are happily visiting their loved ones in StarClan before returning to the waking world, when all of a sudden Graystripe stumbles and it's revealed that he has a fatal belly wound. He explains that he hid it because didn't want to worry everyone else, and that it doesn't bother him that he's dying since he's lived a good long life. He survives long enough to wake up and say goodbye to his family before passing on.

    Live Action TV 
  • In the epilogue scene of Choujin Sentai Jetman, Gai, a.k.a. Black Condor is stabbed and hides it from his friends until he actually dies of his wounds.
  • In the Season 2 finale of Chuck Bryce Larkin is in a gunfight with several Ring agents at the Intersect facility while using another as a Human Shield. A closeup shows what looks to be a bullet striking the human shield, but when Chuck arrives it's revealed that it was Larkin, wearing a similar jacket, who was hit.
  • In an episode of Farscape D'Argo managed to outrun the bad guys with Crichton before collapsing from a gunshot to the back.
  • Game of Thrones: In the season 5 episode "Kill the Boy," Jorah reveals that he's been infected with greyscale.
  • Sara in Los Hombres de Paco hides the fact that she was shot in the stomach in order to go through with her wedding to Lucas. He only discovers this when she collapses after the post-ceremonial kiss.
  • Horatio Hornblower: In "Retribution", Archie Kennedy hides from everyone that he was shot in the fight aboard the Renown with their escaped Spanish prisoners. He tries to keep it secret from his friend Horatio when they talk after. When Horatio notices his blood, he insists that it's just a scratch. He doesn't do a very good job of it, though, since Horatio rips his uniform coat open which leads to a very sad Mortal Wound Reveal moment.
  • In the second season finale of Leverage, Nate gets shot in the side by Kadjik and hides it from the crew until they're safely away and he's turned himself in. It's probably not life-threatening, but...
  • Charles Westmoreland / D.B. Cooper from Prison Break. He got stabbed in a fight with Bellick and hid it until he broke down during the great escape. He died, but not before leaving his wish in Michael's hands.
  • In the Red Dwarf episode "Stoke Me a Clipper", Ace Rimmer returns to recruit this universe's version of Rimmer as his replacement. He reveals that he is a hard-light hologram, and has been concealing an energy leak from his fatally-damaged holographic projector under his jacket. He survives long enough to convince our universe's Rimmer that he has what it takes to become the new Ace.
  • In the 2006 BBC version of Robin Hood, Marian is stabbed by Guy while in her Night Watchman disguise, and doesn't reveal this to Robin, until she collapses in the woods after their escape.
  • Kirk did this after being stabbed in the Star Trek: The Original Series episode Journey To Babel so that Spock would acquiesce to giving blood to his ailing father, but Kirk had to stick it out for the climactic battle anyway.
  • The Walking Dead: Jim hides his bite wound from the rest of the survivors after the attack on the camp.
  • In the first season episode of Xena titled "Prometheus" (crossover with Hercules), Prometheus is captured and bound by the Olympians as in the legend. This results in mankind losing the gifts he gave them- including fire and the ability to heal, so even a scratch is deadly. Xena, Hercules, and Iolaus have to fight off Hera's soldiers more than once. Iolaus receives a sword wound to the side in one battle. Knowing the implications, he hides the injury for as long as possible. Gabrielle is the first to find out, but he still presses on until he finally collapses.

  • A variation, in the spirit of the captain with the red jacket and brown pants: Dispatch's "The General" features a general who apparently doesn't want his troops to worry about getting hurt like him:
    He grew a beard as soon as he could
    To cover the scars on his face
    And always urged his men on
  • "Romeo is Bleeding" by Tom Waits from the album Blue Valentine

  • Cyrano de Bergerac is an older example of this. When Cyrano is dying of a head wound, he keeps it from Roxane until while telling her about court gossip, until he comments that "Cyrano de Bergerac was foully murdered".
  • In a (possibly) still older example, Mercutio's death scene from Romeo and Juliet is often played this way.

    Video Games 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • Godot, under his mask in Trials and Tribulations.
    • In the first game, von Karma's secret bullet wound was so secret he never got the bullet taken out. While he was recuperating, he just didn't attend any trials. Which eventually led to his downfall
    • And who could forget Quercus Alba who concealed a stab wound until he needed it for his alibi.
  • During Aviary Attorney Romulus/Silvio gets shot just before framing someone else. In one route this is quickly found out and he freaks out while manhandled. In another, he spends several days getting things done but is increasingly disabled and enfeebled by the wound.
  • Fire Emblem has a couple of these in more recent installments:
    • In Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones, Seth receives one of these at the very beginning of the game, though it doesn't affect his battle performance in-gameplay. He recovers well enough, though Eirika remains quite worried. Their Support Conversations talk about this injury as well.
    • Greil in Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance. Unique in that it was self-inflicted.
  • In X-Men: Next Dimension, described in the page quote, Wolverine had received several battle wounds, as could likely be expected. The problem is, one wound taken was a Power Nullifier, stopping his healing and letting him take damage from future fights, which he was about to charge into, as the situation mandated it.

    Web Comics 
  • In chapter 49 of Drowtales, Vala'drielle is revealed to have suffered what's implied to be several stab wounds during the Mass Hypnosis event of the previous chapter, when everyone around her began trying to kill her. Already feeling weak and realizing the popular opinion has turned against her, she decides to Abdicate the Throne to its intended successor.

    Web Original 
  • A Scotsman in Egypt: A young prince suffers what his comrades think is a minor injury early on during a battle, and is seemingly still fighting fit and continues to lead his troops... except that he keeps absently muttering, "Why is it so cold?" He'd taken a much worse hit than anyone had realised, including himself thanks to shock, until blood loss finally caught up with him and he lost consciousness and fell from his mount. By then it's too late, and he's dead before his men can get his armour off to bind his wounds.
  • Worm
    • Vista recounts that she once took a stab wound from the Nazi supervillain Hookwolf, and out of a combination of wanting to avoid being seen as the "team baby" (she was twelve at the time) and wanting to avoid being taken off of patrol duty, she avoided telling anyone about it and stitched it up herself, leaving an ugly, puckered scar on her collarbone.
    • At one point Skitter gets blinded, but she's gotten so proficient in using her power to control bugs to sense her surroundings that she doesn't even bother mentioning it. Later a hero uses his power to heal her various injures, but the process requires him to temporarily take the injures onto himself, resulting in him (rather unpleasantly) discovering she had been blind all along.
      Grace: You're blind?
      Skitter: I was.
      Grace: It happened after we parted ways?
      Skitter: No.

    Real Life 
  • After a gun misfire, an airman had the firing pin sewn inside his leg because the surgery would have required him to go back home otherwise.
  • There are some battles in which one side took over 100% casualties, meaning that a significant portion of the force was injured, missing, or captured, returned to fighting, and became casualties again.
    • John Keegan, in his history of WWI, mentions that New Zealand had 8,566 soldiers at Gallipoli. They recorded 14,720 casualties for just this reason.
    • The 3rd Armored Division in WWII's European theater had 16,122 casualties out of a 16,000 strong division. Division Commander Major General Maurice Rose was killed in action, one of 11 KIA US Generals in the war.
    • The 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a unit composed of Japanese-Americans (many of whose families were stuck in internment camps back home) had similar numbers. To keep the 3,000-man unit up to strength, roughly 14,000 men were rotated through it - and the 442nd was only active for the last 2 years of the war. They earned over 9,000 Purple Hearts, and their official casualty rate (combining killed, missing, and permanently wounded) was 93 percent.
    • Similarly, Easy Company of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, suffered 150% casualties during its stint of service during WWII. In addition to replacements rotated through to keep the company strength up, many of the soldiers would sneak out of the hospital to return to the unit.
  • Admiral Yi Sun-Shin died this way, suffering a mortal injury due to a chance shot during the Battle of Noryang. Witnessed only by three people, his final orders were to press the attack home and to hide his death from the crew and fleet, to avoid ruining morale at a critical moment. His final victory was thus won posthumously.
    • Even before that, Yi was once shot during battle and didn't tell anybody until afterwards.
  • Perhaps even more famously than the above example, the death of Horatio Nelson at Trafalgar.
  • Occasionally, paramedics will have to chase down someone who has taken a severe stab wound but insists that they're fine... right until they fall over from blood loss. Because a stab can cause a lot of bleeding or organ damage without affecting very many pain nerves, it's quite possible to underestimate just how badly you've been injured.
    • Adrenalin also decreases the pain response, so if the injury was sustained in a fight or during a risky accident where adrenalin would be released, they might genuinely not feel even the pain that would be there.
      • This applies for other injuries as well, particularly those that trigger a surge of adrenaline. People have been known to soldier on through some particularly gruesome injuries, or those that are at least so painful that they should put anyone out of action. This list of instances of rugby players playing on despite their injuries shows several examples, including Joe Marler, who suffered a particularly bad fracture to his leg in the first half of a game, but was able to play on for the full 80 minutes, in part due to adrenaline and the fact he believed he could keep going, just at a slower pace, but also because his muscles tensed around the fracture, effectively holding it closed.
  • In 1898 Empress Elisabeth of Austria, better known as Sisi/Sissi, was stabbed by Luigi Lucheni, who pretended to have simply fallen against her. She didn't realize it at first and made it back to her hotel (losing consciousness several times) before her companion noticed a brown stain on her chest. They only realized what had actually happened after she was already dead. Although the needle file used in the stabbing had penetrated her heart, the pressure from her corset slowed the process of her bleeding out. It's believed that she might have survived or lived longer had they not removed the corset when trying to determine what had happened.