Abigail: So killing somebody, even if you have to do it... it feels that bad?
Will: [Beat] It's the ugliest thing in the world.
During an important part of the story, our hero, or just the character in focus, kills someone or something. This death could be popping his murder cherry, or it could just be one of the first kills he thinks is wrong. Even if it was self-defense and completely justified, he still feels guilt-ridden. He looks down in a My God, What Have I Done? moment, shocked at his hands because they just became accomplices in taking a life. Often this leads to a Heroic BSoD particularly if the hero is especially moral or idealistic. The act itself is usually part of a Batman Grabs a Gun Situation with the hero breaking a solemn vow that he swore never to break.
"These hands have killed! I've got blood on my hands, and I'll never be the same again..."
Could be followed by Out, Damned Spot!, but it doesn't have to be. This has nothing to do with washing one's hands of blood, metaphorically or literally — only with acknowledging the shedding.
This is a Sub-Trope to My God, What Have I Done? — the character in question experiences that guilt while staring horrified at his hands. If this trope is in a character's backstory, it's Sympathetic Murder Backstory. Compare Bleed 'em and Weep, where the character literally cries after taking life/shedding blood. If a character is contemplating his or hands for an entirely different reason, usually drug-related, then see Contemplating Your Hands. If the character thinks what he has done is inherently wrong, he may become The Atoner. If he ultimately decides it was necessary, he may decide I Did What I Had to Do and, in darker settings, start his path down Gaining the Will to Kill.
As a Death Trope, expect the possibility of unmarked spoilers.
- In Fullmetal Alchemist, Ed tells Winry not to kill Scar, so that they don't have to go through this.
Ed: You delivered a baby. You gave me an arm and a leg. These hands...were not made for killing.
- Kyros from One Piece feels incredibly guilty for the kills he performed in the past, and wishes to atone for it. When his daughter Rebecca is born, he won't touch her without gloves because he feels that his hands are too dirty. Eventually, he's forced to teach Rebecca how to fight, but teaches her to do so without needing to kill. Eventually, when they're reunited years later, Kyros states how he's proud that despite his crime of forcing her to fight, her hands have still remained as clean as her mother's.
- In Sailor Moon, While she hadn't killed anyone at that point yet, during the S season, Haruka/Sailor Uranus looks at her hands and laments that they will become dirty after she and Neptune collect the Talismans from Eudial since the only way to get the Talismans is to rip them out of the hosts Pure Heart Crystals. Which makes it double ironic when it turns out the Talismans are inside her and Michiru's/Sailor Neptune's bodies the entire time.
- Subverted in Code Geass, where when Lelouch first uses his geass to kill the Britannian soldiers, he is stunned for a few seconds afterwards... before showing his evil grin for the first time, hinting at his Magnificent Bastard status.
- Later on, he does indeed talk about "These hands of mine"... All while wearing a malevolent smile and as a prelude to a maniacal laugh.
- In the Code Geass manga, Lelouch actually says this shortly after having a flash back to when he murdered Clovis. (In the same scene in the anime, he just throws up.)
- One possible intrepretation of the consistent staring of one's Hand by Shinji Ikari is that he has committed a Sin in Neon Genesis Evangelion. Those Sins range from almost killing a Friend, willingly killing his Best New Friend, and the infamous hospital scene.
- In Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, Zechs Merquise ( aka Milliardo Peacecraft) liberated the Sanc Kingdom, but refuses to become the new ruler on the grounds that "his hands are stained with too much blood".
- Rurouni Kenshin says something close to the trope phrase in the opening to his super-long flashback arc about his first wife Tomoe, whom he had inadvertently killed some thirteen years previous as the climax of his career as an assassin. It's a major theme for a man who's been Walking the Earth as The Atoner for ten years when the series starts.
- Kenshin: This one's wife. Himura Tomoe, who was killed by these two hands.
- In the Death Note manga, after Takuo Shibuimaru gets hit by a truck as a result Light Yagami writing his name in the titular notebook, Light does this in a back alley. At first.
- In the Tokyo Revelations arc of Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE-, Sakura is tasked with finding and retrieving some jewel to pay Yuuko back with. Along the way, she gets ambushed by a giant acid rain mutant monster. Pinned down and unable to run, she busts out her trusty revolver and unloads into the monster, after which her hands tremble violently and her breathing stagnates. This is especially traumatic considering not only that Sakura had previously been played up as a Friend to All Living Things, but this is the most violent thing that any rendition of Sakura had ever done, or ever would do again (barring the rest of the chapter / OVA).
- Also Clone!Syaoran when he realized that he had just killed Clone!Sakura.
- In Digimon Adventure 02 after Ken's HeelFace Turn he looks at his hands and says this as he's wallowing in self-pity about the things he did as the Digimon Emperor.
- Casshern Sins even had Casshern saying "These hands have killed her!" in reference to his main 'sin' of having murdered Luna.
- There's a moment like this in the Vagabond manga. Miyamoto Musashi, likely experiencing PTSD in the aftermath of his bloody attempts to become a famous swordsman, spends some time living with a peasant family. The peasants see him as kindly big brother figure to the children, and at one point someone tells him that he shouldn't be so sad all the time, and he deserves happiness. Musashi responds by saying something along the lines of "How can I deserve to be happy when these hands have killed over 100 men?" The scene serves to show the difference between the younger Musashi, (who was a Glory Hound that never had a second thought about killing his opponents) and the Warrior Poet he is growing into, who is haunted by the blood he has spilled and the recognition that everyone he has killed had a family and loved ones.
- Jeremy, from A Cruel God Reigns after he kills his physically and sexually abusive stepfather via Vehicular Sabotage. He doesn't care so much about that as he does about the fact that his mother was also in the car. Oops. He spends the second half of the series trying to recover from a massive guilt complex.
- In a pre-afterlife flashback, Yuri of Angel Beats! stares at her own blood-covered hand, after she fails to prevent some sadistic burglars from murdering her siblings. She tries to bring the burglars a vase she thinks is valuable to calm them down, but breaks the vase and cuts her hand, leading to this trope. At the time, she thought that she metaphorically killed her siblings by breaking the vase; but the burglars probably would have been unimpressed by the offering anyway, and she eventually decides that she should stop blaming herself for their deaths.
- Guts of Berserk does this in the first Golden Age Arc movie upon killing Count Julius' young son Adonis, a kid who reminded him very much of...him.
- Balsa from Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit doesn't use the phrase directly, but her entire life so far has been about saving lives because she feels responsible for her foster father having had to kill six men (his own best friends, who were all members of a king's Praetorian Guard, to boot) to keep her alive.
- Invoked very hypocritically by Leonard Testarossa in Full Metal Panic!, when he tries to drive a wedge between Kaname and Sousuke by pointing out that the latter has killed over 100 people during his time as a Child Soldier. Leonard has actually caused many more deaths, but since they were indirect deaths (such as ordering his subordinates to kill someone), he acts like they don't count when stacked against Sousuke's active killings.
- Ange in Cross Ange has this revelation when she finds out that she and her squad mates have been killing human beings turned into DRAGONs all along. Especially for her since she personally stabbed a DRAGON with her knife repeatedly.
- In the anime version of Trigun, Vash is hit by this big time when Legato forces him into a no win situation where he can either kill Legato or let the townspeople Legato is psychically controlling kill Milly and Meryl. Extremely reluctantly, Vash shoots Legato and then passes out. When he wakes up the next morning and remembers what he did, he starts screaming.
- In Unlimited Fafnir, Yuu finds out that his sister Mitsuki was forced to kill a fellow student after she turned into a dragon against her will. The camera occasionally focuses on her hands, or she'll look at them when saying that she'll kill Iris too if she has to. Fortunately he stops her from having to do that, while also helping them to defeat the dragon attacking the school and coming for Iris.
- A big reason why Evangeline of Mahou Sensei Negima! considers herself to be a monster dates back to when she was first turned into a vampire and ended up killing her parents (along with everyone else in the castle) in uncontrolled blood lust.
- In Brave10, while trapped with Isanami after the fight with the giant snake, Saizou tells Isanami he's just a killer and cannot be anybody's shining knight.
- Shino Asada, AKA Sinon from Sword Art Online has her character arc centered around this. At age eleven, she was in the middle of a robbery at a post office, and trying to protect her mother, she jumped on the robber and caused him to drop his gun, then in the middle of the struggle, she ended up shooting him to death. Since then, she copes with the emotional weight of her actions, and it's not until she meets Kirito, who knows what it feels having to kill someone in self-defense or to protect others, that she finally begins to come to terms with it. Also for Asuna in web version for sequence in Aincrad arc, for Kirito and Alice for Dark Territory Residents, and for Rinko for her involvement in SAO incident
- In No Game No Life during the great war, Shuvi recalled it was she who wiped protagonist's village when protagonist propose to her.
- The 1970s manga adaptation of Spider-Man more or less serves as a Transatlantic Equivalent for the titular character, with one major exception - Yu Komori's "Great Responsibility" moment comes not from the death of his uncle, but from the guilt of accidentally killing Electro while trying to collect the bounty on him, driving him to become a "real" hero.
- Saya in Deadly Class is shaken up after stabbing a cop through the back with a katana, even though she played it cool at the time.
- Leetah in this scene◊ from ElfQuest. She's struck by the enormity of her hands, which have hitherto only brought healing, being able to kill, even in self-defense. Also, she does this so much that the warrior Elves she and the Wolfriders are bunking with tell her to stop admiring her hands and get to practical matters.
- Julia Ecklar turned this moment into a song entitled "Healer's Hands". Mp3s of it can be found in various collections.
- Cassandra Cain (Batgirl II) has had at least one flashback to doing this after ripping a man's throat out with her bare hands. It did not help that she was around eight at the time. What makes it worse is her super ability to read body language. Turns out the body language of a dying person is pretty unpleasant.
- Josh's reaction to killing a mugger in No Hero. Given what we find out about him later, it might all be a lie.
- It happens in Supergirl story arc Bizarrogirl. After coming to understand human concepts of "good" and "evil" and remembering she killed a man only because he was loud, Bizarrogirl feels so horrified and guilty she chains herself to a rock. As she cries bloody tears she wonders if "self-punishment ever ends".
- Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?: Superman knowingly used the Phantom Zone Projector to kill Mr. Mxyzptlk, and afterward sadly told Lois, "No one has the right to kill. Not Mxyzptlk. Not you. Not Superman. Especially not Superman." To punish himself, he stepped into the Gold Kryptonite chamber and gave up his superpowers for good.
- The 1986 revamp made this one of its earliest key plot points in order to justify his Thou Shalt Not Kill policy rather than have one self-appointed right from the start (if you ignore the earliest point in his history where he was willing to go through with it). The Supergirl Saga had Superman forced to take lives of three rogue Kryptonians from another timeline who had slaughtered the entire population of their Earth, and subsequent writers right after such as Roger Stern and Jerry Ordway explored its aftermath and just how traumatizing the effects of performing such an act were for the Man of Steel.
- The Kingpin: When Wilson Fisk first fell from power in Daredevil, he muses on his early days as a street thug when he would get blood on his hands. At the end of the story, he brutally kills a bunch of thugs who believe his glory days are over and once again gets blood on his hands. Noticing this, and remembering that his first rise to power involved a lot of days with bloody hands, he washes his hands in a gutter and wanders into the streets more determined than ever to be the Kingpin again.
- In Spider-Man Versus Wolverine, Spider-Man, while trying to punch Wolverine really hard in the face, instead, punched a woman to death. On the plane ride home he can't erase the image from his mind. This still happened in continuity. But he never, ever talks about it.
- Morbius does this in his rewritten origin story after killing his lifelong friend Emil Nikos.
- In Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose, Tarot decides that she must kill her archnemesis afterhe manages to attack her and her mother while rotting away in a prison. After she does the deed, she is seen trying to furiously scrub away all the blood on her hands.
- In New X-Men, Dust once killed a bunch of Purifiers in a rage after waking up in her underwear and thinking that they'd stripped her (she had actually been knocked out and stripped by her roommate Laura, who had found out that Dust was being targeted and thus impersonated her to lead the Purifiers away from her.) A devout Muslim and pacifist, Dust was horrified and later struggled to wash the blood from her hands.
- Robin Series: Tim is traumatized when he thinks he beat the superpowered villain Johnny Warlock to death and sits limp in the Batcave vaguely staring at his hands. Johnny was really just worn out from abusing his power and walked out of the morgue under his own power shortly after being delivered there. After learning he didn't really kill Johnny this event colors the way Tim approaches fights as he resolves to never again attack anyone in such a rage.
- Ace Combat: The Equestrian War has chapter 10, where Fluttershy reacts this way when she thinks she was (unintentionally) responsible for Razor's death.
- Matsuda in Death Note confinuation fics like Law Has Gone Away and Apples Equals Cyanide Equals Light is deeply conflicted and traumatized after shooting Light.
- HERZ: When Shinji visits Kaworu's grave, he states that he killed his friend and his death traumatized him.
- In The One I Love Is Shinji felt awful and borderline suicidal after having been forced to kill Kaoru.
- There's a fic somewhere on the X-Universe boards that has the main character go through this after (out-of-universe) taking a station defense mission and having the pirate who spawned for it refuse to surrender even as her ship was being shot to pieces. (The AI in the games is known for Suicidal Overconfidence, among other things.)
- Empath, in the Empath: The Luckiest Smurf story "The Innocence Of A Smurf," goes through having to deal with exposing the truth to his fellow Smurfs that he has killed a Psyche during a mandatory one-on-one death battle in Psychelia.
- Mutant Storm has Harry killing two Death Eaters - one of them with his bare hands, and then sitting in a shower for about an hour making washing motions with his hands...
- In Make a Wish, Harry while disguised as "Mr. Black" stabs a man to death in self-defense and has a giggle attack out of sheer nervousness. The authorities mistake his freakout for amusement, cementing "Mr. Black's" reputation as a tough-as-nails badass super-wizard.
- In The Land Before Time fanfic The Seven Hunters Littlefoot does this after killing Rhett.
- In Child of the Storm, Thor and Loki responded to the human sacrifices of the Norse in the 10th century with revulsion and horror. Thor just abandoned the Earth, while Loki responded with the attitude that since there was blood on their hands, they'd better lose them. Huginn and Muninn then reveal to Harry that after what he'd done on Earth during the Chitauri invasion sunk in, he tried to cut off his own hands...
- In Origin Story, Alex Harris has this reaction after she kidnaps and kills Henry Peter Gyrich. Surprisingly, this isn't the first time she's killed someone. The other times were in the middle of a heated fight, though, and Alex truly believed that killing Bullseye, the Radioactive Man, and Venom was justified. The death of Gyrich, on the other hand, was simple premeditated murder. Alex thought it necessary to protect Louise, but it still wasn't like the others: they were fighting back, if ineffectively. Gyrich, on the other hand, never had a chance.
- Occurs in Black Flames Dance in the Wind: Rise of Naruto after Naruto accidentally kills Yakumo. While he's killed hundreds of people before, they were generally Asshole Victims such as bandits and traitors. Yakumo is the first person he knows to be innocent he's killed.
- Children of an Elder God: When a terrorist group attempted to take over NERV's German base, Shinji and Asuka had to kill humans for first time. After the battle they spend a good while feeling sorry and depressed, trying to cope with their actions and telling themselves what they did what they had to do.
- It happens to Shinji in A Crown of Stars. Being forced to kill Kaworu deeply affected him. For a long time he refused to kill. He wouldn't even kill in self defense.
- In Superwomen of Eva 2: Lone Heir of Krypton Asuka felt awful with herself after getting forced to mercy-killing Kaworu.
- D.Va in the Overwatch fan fic Break My Heart Break Your Heart starts experiencing severe PTSD after a mission in Brazil where she has to fight and kill human combatants for the first time.
- In Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Supergirl crossover The Vampire of Steel, Buffy takes over Supergirl's body to kill Zol-Am. Kara understands the necessity of it, but even so she feels guilty.
Supergirl: Neither I, nor Superman, take human life. I know Zol-Am wasnt technically alive. I know he was post-human. But still... These hands destroyed a thinking being. I realize why it had to be done. I destroyed Mnagaleh, when we last met. But its not something Im proud of.
- Dreaming of Sunshine: Shikako ends up feeling guilty after killing the Sound trio; Kiba follows suit when he dispatches a Suna ninja to save Shikako's life.
- In the Dragon Age: Inquisition AU series Skyhold Academy Yearbook, Varric reacts this way in the first story when, well, exactly this happens. In a deadly fight, his opponent makes the mistake of pressing his Berserk Button, and is rewarded by being shoved down a waterfall. Varric, who in this AU has fought many times but never killed anyone, is immediately traumatized.
- The Pieces Lie Where They Fell: Night Blade is horrified to realize he killed a guard during the battle in Blas Bridge. Wind Breaker isn't much happier when he later finds out that he unwittingly killed some guards with the explosion he caused.
- In Leviathan, Izuku Midoriya suffers from this trope at the age of four when his Quirk first manifests, turning him into an enormous dragon-like monster that flattened buildings and killed thirty-four people in its rampage. He's spent every year of his life trying to prevent a repeat incident while still trying to achieve his dream of becoming a Hero.
- A retroactive version occurs in RWBY: Scars. Blake becomes haunted by all the people she's killed over the years and begins seeing blood on her hands.
- In Avatar, Jake Sully - a former Marine who might know first hand - tries to keep Smug Snake Selfridge from destroying a Hometree full of Na'vi children by telling him that he doesn't want that kind of blood on his hands. It doesn't work.
- A subtle one in Avengers: Infinity War; during the boat crash in Spiderman Homecoming Tony tells Peter Parker that he would blame himself if he'd died. After Peter disintegrates in his arms, Tony is left staring at his dust-covered hands, before pressing them against his mouth as he breaks down.
- In The Bourne Ultimatum, after Bourne has killed the Black Briar assassin to protect himself and Nicky, he can be seen quietly staring at his hands. This assassin was far from the first person Bourne killed with his bare hands; but it's still him quietly lamenting just how many people he has killed.
- Subverted in John Woo's Broken Arrow. After Deakins crushes Mr. Pritchett's windpipe with a tire iron, he contemplates the fact that although as an Air Force pilot he's dropped bombs on people before, this is the first time he's killed someone up close. He then scoffs, "I don't see what the big deal is."
- Bruce Wayne uses this line (#1) in The Dark Knight after Joker kills several civilians because Batman didn't reveal his identity.
- In The Dark Knight Rises, Detective John Blake tosses his Police issue sidearm aside in disgust after he realized he just killed two perps with it (albeit in self-defense).
- Lenina Huxley in Demolition Man, though she deals with it okay after Spartan points out it was self-defense.
- Doctor Strange (2016). After the titular protagonist has won a fight with Lucian by electrocuting his astral form with a defibrillator with which his ex-girlfriend was shocking him, he walks past Lucian's corpse and checks for a pulse. Later, he rebuffs the Ancient One's praises by telling her he became a doctor to save lives, not take them.
- Dracula (1931):
Renfield: I'm loyal to you, Master, I am your slave, I didn't betray you! Oh, no, don't! Don't kill me! Let me live, please! Punish me, torture me, but let me live! I can't die with all those lives on my conscience! All that blood on my hands!
- In Equilibrium after John Preston stops taking his medicine, he pulls this trope when he catches a dying resistance fighter in his arms that his partner shot, almost transfixed by the blood on his gloves and gun.
- In Frozen, Queen Elsa has a realization that she killed her sister, Princess Anna, when she sees her ice statue frozen right in front of her. She then starts weeping and completely breaks down in Tears of Remorse.
- In The Guilty, Iben sees her infant son Oliver's blood on her hands after her psychotic episode has ended and realizes that she killed him.
- The Hunger Games: Katniss's brief breakdown after paying tribute to Rue could in part be due to her having directly killed someone (Marvel) for the first time.
- In the movie version of Jesus Christ Superstar, when Pilate washes his hands, the water in which he washes them turns red.
- The Last King of Scotland: Nigel Stone to Nicholas Garrigan after he inadvertently causes the death of an innocent man.
Stone: Fuck off, Garrigan. We don't just hand out passports to chimps like you. Particularly not chimps with blood on their hands.
- In Man of Steel, Superman lets out a frustrated yell after snapping Zod's neck.
- Morgan. Both times that Morgan becomes violent while seated at a table, she puts her hands palm down on the edge of the table, then turns them palm up. The gesture is explained in a flashback where she Mercy Kills a deer, then looks at her hands in horror. The Final Girl Lee Weathers has the same gesture in The Reveal that she's an Artificial Human bred as a Super Soldier like Morgan.
- Inverted in The Never Ending Story, where the Rock Biter is unable to keep his friends from being pulled away into the Nothing. He sits, staring down at his massive stone limbs, and says slowly, "They look like big, strong hands, don't they?"
J. Robert Oppenheimer: I feel we have blood on our hands.
- In Return of the Jedi, Luke has an instant of this, though it's because he cut through Darth Vader's prosthetic arm in anger, has his own, and grasps what he's doing.
- Akira Kurosawa's Throne of Blood utilizes this in a fairly direct homage to MacBeth with the wife being unable to cleanse her hands of blood.
- Total Recall (1990) (1990). Quaid does this right after he slaughters the five agents trying to kill him on Earth, before he goes back to his "wife" Lori. He actually has their blood on his hands at the time.
- "This is the skin of a KILLER!" in the Twilight movie.
- In Uncommon Valor, Scott (Patrick Swayze) is a Drill Sergeant Nasty but a rookie who's never experienced combat before. During the team's first encounter with Khmer Rouge troops at the Laotian border, he unhesitatingly kills an enemy soldier on pure reflex... but then spends several seconds staring down at the dead man in shock at what he's done. He eventually recovers, though, and rejoins the battle.
- In The Wolfman (2010), Lawrence stares at his bloodied hands in horror when he wakes up after his first transformation.
- In James Swallow's Warhammer 40,000 Blood Angels novel Deus Sanguinius, after Gallio, Vode, and all their men are murdered, Rafen thinks it's his fault for having sent the message; their blood was on his hands.
- The Bible
- Pilate washes his hands to get the figurative blood of Jesus off of them. History lesson: it doesn't work. (The blood of the thousands of other miscellaneous threats to Rome he crucified, of course, are presumed to have come off easily.) Pilate's act was actually something of a Roman tradition, indicating that the official responsible for an act was not acting for himself, but rather in his official capacity. In other words, he wasn't trying to "wash his hands" of the Crucifixion, but rather saying (more or less): "I didn't do what just happened. That was the Roman State." Unfortunately for Pilate, very few non-Romans in that time and place understood the concept of separating the office from the person; it was quite the Roman concept, which didn't really translate for the mostly Jewish and Hellenistic Greek early Christians.
- This was the very reason God instructed Solomon to build the Temple instead of his father, David, who has killed and was not no longer as innocent and pure as he should be.
- Robert A. Heinlein's The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress has Bernardo deLaPaz admit that when they, as the new Lunar government, publicly out those members of the revolution who were actually paid informants of the overthrown government, those they expose as traitors will be murdered by members of the public. "I will not duck the responsibility. Their blood will be on my hands."
- In Wyrd Sisters, the Macbeth Expy Lord Felmet has blood-red hands from the night he murders King Verence until the night he dies. However, the fact that he uses progressively harsher methods to remove the blood (including sandpaper and a metal file) implies that maybe the reason it doesn't come off is because the blood is coming from an actual wound rather than karma.
- When Dorian in The Picture of Dorian Gray murders Basil Hallward, blood-stains appear on his portrait's hands.
- In Grey Lensman, hero Kimball Kinnison indulges in this when trying to make Clarissa MacDougal understand what marrying him could entail. She basically tells him to can the dramatics; she knows perfectly well what his job entails.
- In Gene Stratton-Porter's Freckles, one villain objects to killing Freckles because he does not want this trope. They could have prevented him from seeing anything.
- In Poul Anderson's short story "No Truce With Kings", a new alien asks an old hand whether, when they see the future their Dirty Business is needed to bring about, the blood will wash off. The old hand says no.
- A Song of Ice and Fire:
"It was a dream. I was in my tent when Renly died, and when I woke my hands were clean."
- Averted when Arya Stark commits her first cold-blooded killing (cutting the throat of a sentry); she sees the blood on her hands and casually notes that the rain will wash it off.
- Manipulative Bastard Lord Tywin Lannister emphasises on several occasions that there's no blood on his hands from acts which are regarded as heinous even in the Crapsack World of Westeros (killing the royal children of the previous regime, and plotting a violation of Sacred Hospitality), but are Killing With A Borrowed Knife.
- King Stannis plays the trope straight when he dreams of his brother Renly's assassination by dark magic, carried out by a shadow assassin created from his Life Energy.
- Darren cries after killing his first vampaneze in The Saga of Darren Shan.
- Happens in the fairy tale "The Princess Mayblossom", where the titular princess kills an ambassador who is trying to kill and eat her. Once the ambassador is dead, she realizes that he was the only other person on the island with her (the two were stranded there, and could not find a way out), breaks down in tears, and contemplates her fate. Luckily, she is rescued not long after.
- This is the immediate thought process of Jonah Wizard from The 39 Clues after he shoots a Vesper at point-blank range. He's especially traumatized because up until this point, barring the Clue hunt a few years earlier, he's lived the sheltered, luxurious life of a teenage pop star and hasn't yet come to terms with all the violence that the conflict entails.
- The Star Wars Expanded Universe novel Death Star has one of the gunners manning the superlaser go through a full-on nervous breakdown after the destruction of Alderaan. He's the same guy who in the movie repeatedly says, "Stand by... stand by" right before the Death Star goes up, because he couldn't bring himself to pull the trigger again.
- Vampire Academy:
- Dimitri angsts quite a bit about all the innocents he had killed while a Strigoi.
- Rose has one of these in Last Sacrifice, for killing Victor.
- In Inheritance, the final book of Inheritance Cycle, after Eragon heals the baby Hope, he says that his hands are too bloody for that type of work.
- In Desert And Wilderness has Staś kill the kidnappers during his last attempt to escape from them. He's not proud of this.
- The Late Show: Ballard has to kill a bad guy. And even though it was a kill-or-be-killed scenario, she has to do some soul searching afterwards.
"It didn't matter whether it was justified, she was now a part of the population that knew what it was to take a life."
- The Stormlight Archive: Aladar, who's a veteran of Alethkar's Deadly Decadent Court and has the cynical mindset to prove it, invokes this trope when grudgingly joining forces with the heroes.
Aladar: You realise that I'm stained through and through. I've got blood on these hands, Dalinar. I'm not some perfect, honourable knight as you seem to want to pretend.Dalinar: I know you're not. I'm not either. We will have to do.
- Adam-12: When Jim Reed kills a perp in the line of duty in "It All Happened So Fast", the show goes to some length to show that Reed, while putting on a brave face, does show discomfort afterward. Malloy and Mac reassure Reed that what he's going through is normal and expected for a decent cop. In "Elegy for a Pig", Malloy's narrative brings up the subject again with an officer he knew and the first time he killed a perp on duty.
- Not quite the first time, but Faith has one of these when she kills for the first time (in self-defence) after deciding to attempt her HeelFace Turn in the "Sanctuary" episode of Angel.
Xander:I just... I've had blood on my hands all day. Blood from people I love.Buffy:I know. And now it has to stop.
- And in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Enemies" after Faith stabs a demon to death in a frenzy she later shows Angel her bloody hands. Subverted when it's revealed she's trying to gain his sympathy so she can seduce Angel and turn him evil.
- In a flashback showing Angel's human soul being restored by the curse he is clearly absolutely horrified once he remembers everything he did as a soulless vampire.
- In the season 5 episode 'The Weight of the World' when the line between Ben and Glory starts to blur, Ben remembers all the people Glory killed as if it were him doing it. He stares at his hands and asks where the blood is, saying he can still feel it.
- Played with/referenced in 'Villains', although referring to actual blood. Xander says that he feels partially responsible for Buffy getting shot and Tara being killed by Warren since he froze in fear and couldn't protect them. Averted since it wasn't really his fault.
- Kamen Rider Ryuki's Ren agonizes over this after he kills Kamen Rider Odin in self-defense.
- In Xena: Warrior Princess, Gabrielle has this reaction after she kills the priestess of a dark god while trying to save someone. It's made even worse by the fact that the man she saves is also a follower of the dark god, and that Gabrielle was being duped.
- In an episode of Doctors, BRIAN BLESSED played a character who exclaimed "I killed a man... with THESE!".
- Midway through the third season of Chuck, Chuck himself briefly has a moment like this after he shoots Shaw. Even though it's revealed in the finale Shaw survived, Chuck very briefly looks down almost in shock at the gun in his hands before he has to rush to prevent Shaw from killing Sarah with his dying breathes.
- On GraceLand Mike feels responsible for the death of a gang member. Mike is undercover trying to build a case against a major crime boss and has antagonized one of the man's lieutenants. The lieutenant threatens Mike and the FBI decides to neutralize the threat by making it look like the man betrayed his boss. The give the gang member fair warning but he is Too Dumb to Live and dies right in front of Mike. Everyone tells Mike that he was not responsible for what happened but Mike still feels really guilty. At the end of the episode, he is doing the dishes and when he looks down it seems that his hands are covered in blood but it is just tomato sauce.
- In Pretty Little Liars, Emily fatally stabs Nate. Even though he was going to kill her and her girlfriend Paige, and did kill her previous girlfriend Maya, she is deeply shaken by it and even needs a Cool Down Hug. Later in the season she admits to still being haunted by it, and everyone saying that what she did was really brave is just making things worse.
Emily: Everyone wants to talk about how I'm some kind of hero. Everyone tells me I... I killed someone. Someone had a life, someone was a living breathing person, and I...Dr. Sullivan: You killed someone.Emily: I know what he was planning to do, who he really was. In my head I know. But then I close my eyes, and I can see myself holding that knife. It was in my hand, and I can still feel what it felt like when it...
- In Smallville, Chloe has an unusual version, as it is actually Davis/Doomsday who killed the person.
- Babylon 5:
- From the episode "Knives":
Londo Mollari: No. The blood is already on my hands. Right or wrong, I must follow the path to its end.
- In the fourth season, it is not Londo, but the innocent and unlikely hero Vir who kills the insane Emperor Cartagia. He is shocked and later tormented by the memory of what he's done, and tries drinking to forget it. Londo assures him that it was necessary, and that the fact that he is feeling so troubled over it shows that he is a good person, which Londo envies.
- From the episode "Knives":
- Battlestar Galactica: "Collaborators":
Tom Zarek: They have a jury, but they don't get lawyers. They don't get to showboat for weeks and months on end. They don't get to blame the system. And they don't get lasting fame as martyrs or innocent people just in the wrong place at the wrong time. They just disappear. Now. In the great twilight between the long night of the occupation and the dawn of a new era, you come into office clean, without their blood on your hands.
- Dick Turpin: "The Impostor"
Swiftnick: Happened? What happened to you? What happened to Dick Turpin? Shall I tell you? He's a memory! I believed in him. A lot of us did. Because he meant freedom and a chance to hit back at injustice, to struggle from the mire! But he's a memory. And you, you stand there in his place. With my uncle's blood on your hands!
- General Hospital:
Emily Quartermaine: And now the blood of those two innocent kids she killed is on your hands!
- In Hannibal, Will Graham consults on FBI cases by using his heightened empathy to trace serial killer motives and actions. However, that doesn't make it any easier when he's forced to gun down serial killer Garrett Jacob Hobbs in order to stop Hobbs cutting his daughter's throat; the act of acting lethally to save a life still sets him on a path where he finds it easier to look into the minds of killers because he can't cope with his actions. The increasing decay of his mental and emotional state is often discussed throughout the show:
Will: There's no such thing as getting used to what you experienced]]. It bothers me a lot. I worry about nightmares too.
Abigail: So killing somebody, even if you have to do it... it feels that bad?
Will: (beat) It's the ugliest thing in the world.
- Heroes: Chapter Sixteen "Unexpected"
S.R. Gustavson: You take on a partner. All you get is their blood on your hands.
- Lost: "One of Us"
Juliet Burke: I'm taking that medication back to Claire. And you're gonna let me. Because if she doesn't get it, she's gonna die. And the last thing that either of you need right now, is more blood on your hands.
- Monk: Mr. Monk Meets the Godfather, who was chopping up fish at the time.
Salvatore Lucarelli: [shrugs, chuckling] I have blood on my hands.
- Used in CSI: Miami: when Horatio has to clear his name he invokes this trope; the blood in question was the real killer's (he punched him in the face), which proves he was at the scene.
- Referenced/subverted in Bones: "The Hole in the Heart":
- In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Things Past", Odo momentarily hallucinates his blood-drenched hands due to repressed memories of his greatest failure coming to the surface.
- Subverted in the Intelligence episode "Athens" after Non-Action Guy Nelson opens fire on Jin Cong's mooks. After the fight he's a little shocked, until Agent Jameson points out all he managed to kill was an air duct.
Nelson: I just killed people.
Jameson: No, you didn't. (points at the ceiling)
- Game of Thrones. As he's being kidnapped in "First of His Name", Brandon Stark wargs into Gentle Giant simpleton Hodor, and uses his body to brutally kill his abductor. Even Hodor is able to piece together what happened when he sees his bloodied hands and a neck-snapped man before him and is visibly distraught.
- Referenced by Eliot Spencer, when he tries to warn Nate that If You Kill Him, You Will Be Just Like Him.
Eliot: You have no idea who I was before all this started. That guykidhe had God in his heart, a flag on his shoulder. Clean hands. I haven't seen him in the mirror in over ten years. And believe me, I get up every morning looking for him. So you can trust me when I tell you that if you pull that trigger, two men die: the guy you kill, and the guy you used to be.
- On The 100, Clarke stares at her bloody hands and cries after killing Finn.
- How to Get Away with Murder Connor's excuse for supplying the prosecution with the evidence needed to convict Annalise's client
Connor: Zoey would've killed again, and I cannot deal with any more blood on my hands.
- Bad Education: Alfie when he believes he pushed Pickwell to suicide, emphasized when he spills red ink on his hands. Turns out she didn't actually kill herself, but faked her death and personally blamed many people so she could laugh at their guilt
- Norwegian Mini Series Hanging By a Thread has the main character assisting an illegal abortion. When the fetus comes out, she quickly wraps it up in a newspaper and shoves the whole thing into a burning stove. Cue this trope immediately afterwards, as she, visibly shaken, looks at her hands.
- In The Megas album Get Equipped, the song "Lamentations of a War Machine/End Song", taking place after Mega Man defeats Wily in his fortress, has these lyrics:
If I've a heart made of steel
Then does that mean I cannot feel?
Remorse for everything I've done
My hand's a smoking gun!
- Tosca: Cavaradossi and Tosca sing a whole duet about it.
- The rock opera penned by The Protomen, Act II, track 4, "The Hounds".
"There is a flame that I've been fanning/There is a fire waiting to catchThere is a hell that has been building/From the moment we first metIf there ever was a time/If there ever was a chanceTo undo the things I've done/And wash the bloodstains from my handsIt has past and been forgotten/These are the paths that we must take'Cause you and I, Tom, we are men/And we can bend and we can break"
- Melodic Death Metal band Arch Enemy's "Blood on Your Hands". The first track on the album, and considered to be the best.
"You were born your brother's keeper/Why can I see blood on your hands?""Blood is on your hands/The Wages of Sin"
- Iron Maiden's "Blood on the World's Hands".
- DragonForce's "Through the Fire and Flames":
Now here we stand with their blood on our hands
- The Used's "Blood on My Hands":
There's blood on my hands/Like the blood in you!
- Demons & Wizards, a collab of Blind Guardian's Hansi Kürsch and Iced Earth's Jon Schaffer, brought us "Blood On My Hands."
- The Smashing Pumpkins' "Wound":
Wound opens, reveal this broken manAnd soon, there's notions of blood on his hands
- Iced Earth's "Blood On My Hands".
- The ending of "High Water Mark" (and of the entire Gettysburg trilogy).
- Shackleton's "Blood On My Hands."
- The Mega Man-based rock opera by The Megas has an example in "Look What You've Done".
Dr. Wily: ''I see his hands/(Robots are stronger than man)Covered in my children's blood/(I will not let victory... fall through my hands!)And his eyes do not waver."
- Side Two of Alice Cooper's Welcome To My Nightmare is almost all about this; refer to track Only Women Bleed (part Two). In which the bleeding is both literal and terminal.
- Royal Blood's "Blood Hands":
There's blood on my hands, there's blood on my hands, yeah there's blood
- Implied in Avenged Sevenfold's song "Angels" on The Stage, by the lines "Mother wash the devil from my hands" and "Somehow all the bullets bear my name" in "Angels", although the exact meaning of the song is somewhat ambiguous.
- "These hands have killed men" is said twice in the Promethean's speech on the back cover of the Promethean: The Created core book. However, the speech is written such that it could be read in a resigned tone - she's long since inured herself to that fact.
- Subverted in the PS4 remaster of Yakuza 1, as it shows the Big Bad at the very beginning of his Start of Darkness: he kills a mook, is briefly fazed, but gets over it declares that killing will be his way of dealing with things from then on.
- Tomb Raider:
- In Tomb Raider: Anniversary, Lara has exactly this reaction after killing Larsen.
- Tomb Raider (2013) shows Lara's first human kill in the new continuity, in the immediate aftermath of which she is incredibly upset and traumatized to the point of crying. Though she goes on to rack up a huge bodycount through the rest of the game, she never gets over just how disturbingly easy it is to kill.
- In Mega Man 2: The Powers Fighters this happens to Mega Man after Dr. Wily convincing him that he's as bad as Wily for destroying his evil robots. It takes all of about 10 seconds for Dr. Light to snap him out of it.
- This is used to explain why Regal keeps himself handcuffed in Tales of Symphonia. He switched to killing things with his legs.
- Kiryu's "victory" animation in Godzilla Unleashed has him look at his hands, then pull them down his face screaming.
- In Silent Hill 2, James's reaction to killing Eddie in self defense is like this, but it's ironic because he's already killed his wife, although he's blocked it out of his mind.
- In Final Fantasy VII, Barret tries to make peace with his old friend, Dyne, by mentioning the man's daughter (whom Barret had rescued and adopted after their town was destroyed). Dyne refuses, noting that not only would she not remember him, but that his hands are too stained to carry her any more. Then he jumps off a cliff, leaving Barret to admit that his hands aren't any cleaner.
- Noel Kreiss does it in Final Fantasy XIII-2 as he asks "I killed the goddess?"
- Inverted in EVE Online chronicle Hands of a Killer, where the owner of said hands gleefully admits that while he has never committed physical violence, he is nevertheless responsible of deaths of countless people, including his own crew. It's all a part of his recruiting speech.
- In the ending of PlayStation 3 Updated Re-release of Eternal Sonata, Frederic Chopin does this when he wakes up following his defeat in battle and sees that Polka is gone and that the world around him hasn't changed. He blames himself for not being able to do anything to stop her sacrifice. "Why? The dream was at an end. Oh no. It can't be. Not Polka."
- Happens to Jackie Ma in Sleeping Dogs. Wei is outfought by his opponent, who knocks him down and puts a gun to his face... then blood sprays, and the scene cuts to Jackie, who is now holding a gun. He drops it and spends a good ten seconds or so staring at his hands until Wei (and the sound of approaching police sirens) manage to snap him out of it. During the drive with Wei to the Initiation, it's made clear that it's the first time he's ever killed; he'd thought about what it would look like, but not how he'd feel about it.
- Luke in Tales of the Abyss is utterly horrified the first time he ends up killing another human. Later on in the game, Jade notes that Luke has nightmares each time he kills another human, even if it was a bandit or Oracle Knight.
- Jason, the protagonist of Far Cry 3, does this briefly after his first kill: a pirate who was attempting to stab him while he was trying to get away. He quickly gets over it. A bit too quickly, actually.
- Semi Subversion ins Asura's Wrath: Even though he doesn't do any killing, after finding the emperor's dead corpse, he gets blood on his hands and does this pose for it.
- Call of Duty 4, after Victor Zakhaev kills himself to avoid being captured:
Imran Zakhaev: Our blood has been spilled on our soil. My blood on their hands.
- In BioShock Infinite , Elizabeth has a moment of this after killing Daisy Fitzroy, before she could murder a child.
- The ending of Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly. Mio is utterly horrified from killing her own twin sister, Mayu, to complete the village's ritual.
- In Odin Sphere, the skeletal form of King Valentine sobs about how "I crushed my beloved child with these hands... These fingers wrung the life from that soft neck 'til it cried no more."
- Students who don't have a fighting background in Fire Emblem: Three Houses can react like this if they finish an enemy during their first real battle.
- In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Justice for All, Maya Fey despairs over killing Dr. Turner Grey "with these two hands". She didn't actually kill Grey, but was a victim of a set-up orchestrated by Morgan Fey and Mimi Miney.
- Hatoful Boyfriend's Sakazaki Yuuya was more or less driven to do what he did as a child but considers it his crime. The dirty hands there are his.
- El Goonish Shive:
- Even though she hasn't actually killed, Grace looks at her bloodied hand after savagely attacking Damien which reminds her that Damien's hands looked like that after he killed. This causes her to stop attacking and actually apologize to Damien.
- A more literal example with Susan. It's the very reason why she's the person she is today.
- The Order of the Stick: O-Chul disclaims responsibility: the act is on your hands, not mine.
- In Homestuck, Dave gets blood on his hands when he finds the dead body of his alternate self. He ends up staring mutely at them for about ten minutes. Also lampshaded when Dirk kills his session's Hegemonic Brute:
"You spend the next ten minutes thinking about it while you stand on his head and stare at the blood on your hands, as the often utilized stock graphic in the bottom corner of the image would indicate."
- Roommates' interpretation of The Erl-King makes the title character do this in his last panel at the end after he murdered a child.
- In We Are The Wyrecats, K.A. is clearly shaken after killing a mook for the first time.
- Ava's Demon: Gets played a bit for laughs (during a sequence where it is very much not played for laughs) after Ava goes One-Winged Angel and slaughters an amphitheater of religious extremists who were trying to brainwash and physically mutilate her.
Odin: Uh, whoa... y-you've got blood on your hands, you know?
Ava: OH YEAH?! WELL, WHO DOESN'T?! ...oh, wait, you meant literally—
- Wilde Life: Cliff doesn't seem all that concerned about killing a rougarou to protect Oscar, until he learns that it Was Once a Man. The revelation seems to bring his own fears about being a "monster" to the fore. It doesn't help that Oscar is understandably freaked out by his near-death experience and the rather violent means that Cliff used to protect him.
- "Staring at your hands the way people do in movies when they've just killed their first person" was one of the emotions portrayed at Eric Conveys An Emotion.
- Deviant: The main protagonist, Genesis, is a deeply altruistic, idealistic hero. As such, she doesn't take killing well when it comes with the occupation. She isn't alone - other characters in the story mention their distaste for having to murder as well, and many mention how guilty they feel for their kill counts.
- Hal Jordan has this in the Justice League: The New Frontier movie, in his segment of the setup for the actual plot. He got through what seems to have been the Korean War doing the closest thing to a pacifist run a fighter pilot has ever pulled off, and then he goes down some ten minutes after the war is officially over and can't make the Korean he lands near understand that he doesn't want to fight now, it's over, they're not at war...so he winds up shooting him in the face at incredibly close range. Blood everywhere. Seriously screws him up.
- Bob's Burgers: In Sacred Cow, animal-rights activist Randy accuses Bob of this when he is about to make his 100,000th burger. Made worse for him when Linda comes out of the restaurant with actual blood on her hands, and Louise frequently screaming 'MURDERER!' at him. While he ignores their accusations at first, later on in the episode he begins to feel guilty. He feels better about it once he passes out and hallucinates about passionately making out with a cow
- In the Rick and Morty episode "Look Who's Purging Now," Morty stares at his hands after killing the owner of the lighthouse.
Rick: Whoa, Morty! You just purged!
- Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker: Tim Drake feels terrible after killing the Joker, even decades afterwards.
Tim Drake: Oh, God. I killed him. I didn't mean to. I tried so hard to forget. But I still hear the shot,still see his dead smile. Every night the dreams get stronger. He's there when I sleep, whispering, laughing...telling me I'm just as bad as he is, we're both the same.
- In season 5 of Samurai Jack, Jack is utterly horrified when he kills one of the Daughters of Aku in self-defense and discovers they were a human being instead of a robot.
- Any athlete, medical practitioner, or *ahem* murderer will tell you that blood actually is a pain to get off your hands when it dries. It's very sticky and requires some scrubbing with good soap, and forget it if it gets on your clothes. There's a reason that detergents brag about being able to get blood stains out. What? Why is everyone looking at me like that? No, I'm definitely not a serial killer with tons of personal experience.
- There are several high-risk sports where a player has injured another player, which leads to the injured player's death after the game or match. Boxing is notorious for this, as is any combat sport that allows full contact with no padding. Often, the player that caused the injuries which lead to a person dying will feel terrible afterward, sometimes dropping out of the sport altogether.
- Played straight by any veteran after a war. Any war. Ever. Any specific examples are redundant and therefore not needed.