- Hetalia: Axis Powers fanfic Gankona, Unnachgiebig, Unità: When Italy says he sleeps with Germany and Japan, he really did mean he just slept in their beds with them and nothing else. Until later...
- The One I Love Is...: In chapter 9 Shinji and Asuka argue as riding an elevator. Asuka loses her temper for a second and slaps him. Shinji falls on his back and Asuka gets horrified and kneels down. Shinji stands and reaches a hand down to help her up when the elevator stops and Maya walks in on them. She blushes and Shinji does not want to know what she thought was happening.
- The Second Try: Shinji and Asuka don't want people suspecting that they are timetravelers and Happily Married. They try and pretend that they are not together but they are lousy actors, and every time they are caught making out or believe they have been caught or let slip that they are together they swear that "this is not what it looks like" and "it is not what you are thinking".
- In chapter 5:"Uh... Mi... Misato!" he stuttered, trying to get the surprisingly calm redhead off him. "It... it's not what it looks like!"
- And in the sequel Aki-chan's Life it got subverted. Yes Touji, yes Hikari, that little girl who just answered the door of your friend's apartment is Shinji and Asuka's kid. It's a long story.
- In chapter 5:
- Shinji and Warhammer 40k: In chapter 24 Shinji and his father are alone in a room and Shinji punches himself to get his father in trouble. When Misato stormed into the place and saw Shinji bleeding Gendo tried to explain what this was not what it looked like... and then he shut up because he realized that NOBODY would believe him.
- In This Time As A Namikaze The Sandaime and Hyuuga Hiashi knock on Naruto's door. A sleepy Naruto sans jacket answers. Cue Hinata (also sleepy) walking in saying "Naruto-kun. Come back to bed. You over-exerted yourself last night." wearing nothing but his jacket. The explanation is that Naruto was masquerading as a missing-nin the previous night and got roughed up escaping from ANBU prison in a big storm only to get back to his apartment to see a soaking wet Hinata inside. He offers her his jacket to keep her warm and out of wet clothes then passes out in his bed where they end up cuddling. Hiashi has a fit.
- In "The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time", Link has to leave the forest and meets Saria, just as he did in the game. When he sees her, he tries to tell her this, but he quickly tells her the truth.
- In the Kingdom Hearts fic Sex on the Beach, this is inverted and played straight both — inverted first, when Kairi mistakes Sora and Riku engaging in the eponymous activity for a Nobody attack. The "played straight" comes later when the three of them are congratulating each other on a struggle to escape being discovered by their parents... and Kairi's father walks in the door just in time to observe what appears to be a threesome.
- Subverted in the Haruhi Suzumiya/TV Tropes crossover Kyon: Big Damn Hero. Kyon is found in a compromising position just to be photographed and teased a little. He still says the line though.
- In the End has two if these; one with Lelouch's dead body and also when Nunnally finds out who Zero is and Suzaku tries to reassure her.
- Once More with Feeling: In a chapter, Misato caught Asuka leaving Shinji's room at the morning. Asuka has to explain that is not what it looks like, she had been not acting untoward towards Shinji and had a good reason for she sleeping in his room. The reason being he had nightmares and she was trying to comfort him."It had taken some fast talking in the living room and not a little angry indignation to convince Misato that nothing untoward had happened between her and Shinji last night."
"And that she did have a good reason to be sleeping in Shinji's bedroom."
"In his bed."
"With him in said bed, at the same time."
"Not that in her opinion it was any of Misato's business what she and Shinji chose to do -or not do- together"
- The title of Stars Above's fifth chapter is this. Kagami says it when Tsukasa misinterprets seeing her lying in Homura's lap.
- In Shadow Snark, Shadow has Uma (who is female at the time) knocked out inside a sack It Makes Sense in Context.
- Double Subverted in the Daria fan fiction series Esteem Roller. Jane and Sandi walk in on a half-naked Daria giving a nude Stacy a massage, and both assert that the massage was purely medicinal (Stacy having pulled a muscle) and the nudity was pragmatic (the massage oil involved was rather pungent and difficult to get out of clothing). And immediately after their denials, they learned that they were both closeted lesbians who were attracted to each other, meaning the prior setup had been intentional on both parts.
- Inverted in Sophistication and Betrayal, where an encounter between the protagonist and Rarity was exactly what it looked like. Pinkie Pie however mistakes this for "a big hug", and accepts a Blatant Lies excuse of Rarity being excited over her recent business success.
- In Overlady, Louise walks in on her sister Cattleya in a compromising position with one of her maids.Cattleya: Its not what it looks like!
Louise severely doubted that. She was almost certain it was exactly what it looked like. Her sister had her head between the wide-open legs of another girl, who had her skirt rolled up to her waist. The girl a maid by the looks of it was slack-jawed and vacant-eyed. And there were fluids smearing her sisters jaw.
No, whatever Cattleya might say, it was exactly what it looked like.
Her sister had certainly sunk her fangs into the thigh of the other woman and had been drinking her blood.
- Risk It All: After breaking the arm of the man who mugged him, Ren quickly realizes that it looks like he's the one doing the mugging and feebly tries to tell onlookers that the guy mugged him first. He quickly gives up, takes his money back, and runs for dear life.
- In Chapter 14 of Arad's Stardust, Lana walks in on Matt cuddling Twilight Sparkle (he's comforting her, somewhat involuntarily — she hugged him first, he's under orders not to touch her without her permission — over her Chryssalid-related issues). Naturally, she can't resist teasing him about it.
- In the RWBY fic Massages, Jaune gives Yang a massage, but her screams of pleasure cause their friends to think they're having sex. After explaining the situation, the other girls make Jaune give them massages. Soon, their screams of pleasure convince everyone in Beacon that Jaune is sleeping with them all. Jaune is not happy about this, because all the boys get jealous and try to beat him up.
- In the Worm/Exalted crossover She Who Skitters In Shadows, Tattletale gives Skitter her phone number after meeting her in a restaurant. Of course, the real reason Tattletale gave her that note was so they could discuss the Abyssal Exaltation lodged in Skitter's soul, but Skitter can't tell them that. Cue the Wards joking about how Skitter's 'a player'.
- Before that, there's the scene of Skitter drinking Panacea's blood to heal herself, which everyone misinterprets.
- Inverted and mixed with Sarcastic Confession in Thousand Shinji. Misato walks in on Shinji and Asuka on top of each other with a broken chair nearby.Shinji: "This is exactly what it looks like. Asuka and I were making out so hot and heavy, we broke a chair."
Misato: "Damnit. If you're going to fight, at least don't break the furniture."
- Lelouch inverts this in Lelouch of Britannia after his bodyguards walk in on Kallen trying to assassinate him. Since he thinks she's a Stalker with a Crush and they're lying on top of each other (her half-naked, him completely naked), he calmly assures his bodyguards that it's exactly what it looks like and tells them to make sure they're not interrupted.
- In A Voice Among the Strangers, Ebony says this when Twilight and Spike walk in on her tickling Jessica on the couch.
- In the Pokémon Send Your Original Characters fanfic Pokémon: Take Two, Nurse Joy walks in on Ry on top of Alex on a bed. Ry was bringing a board game for them to play but tripped.
- In the Star Trek: The Original Series fanfic Insontis, the Security team finds a video of McCoy threatening Spock; it turns out to be the two of them playing superhero with kid!Kirk.
- In Tales Of Ponyville, Trixie needs to use a memory-transfer spell to show Raindrops something. Unfortunately, for Luna alone knows what reason, the spell requires that you kiss the pony you want to give memories to. With tongue. Naturally, Cherilee (who, incidentally, is under the mistaken impression that Trixie is not only a virgin (which she is), but totally ignorant with regards to sex) walks in at just the wrong moment.
- In the Pokémon fanfic Travels of the Trifecta, Paul jumps to the conclusion that Reggie was having sex with Maylene because Reggie is tired the day after Maylene stayed at their house (while Paul was staying with Conway), and starts a fight with Reggie over it. In reality, Reggie was tired because he was having nightmares that were keeping him awake, but Paul doesn't believe this at first.
- Parodied in chapter 19 of Children of an Elder God. Shinji and Asuka are caught when they were about to make love in the base's lockers and Shinji automatically says what it is not what their friends think:Anna peeked into the boys' dressing room just in time to see her friend straddled atop Shinji, both wearing their plugsuits, though the way they were kissing, she had to wonder if the plugsuits were going to come off again. At Touji's outburst, the two lovebirds paused a moment and looked up, then quickly stood up and straightened themselves out.
"Aaagh!" screamed Touji. "It's true! You've turned kraut!"
"I-it's not what you think!" replied Shinji desperately. They all stared at him. He smiled weakly. "Okay, so it was what you think."
- Measurements, part of Jay-The-Brony's Friends with Everybody continuity, has this little exchange:Flash Sentry: "Sunset! This... this isn't what it looks like!"Sunset Shimmer: "Well, it looks like Rarity was having some neck pains and you were being a good friend and helping her out with it." (I.e., giving her a neck massage.)Flash Sentry (truthfully): "Um... in that case... it's exactly what it looks like."
- At one point in Retired to Equestria, Damien walks in on Gilda, Pinkie Pie, and Twilight Sparkle in a pile covered in batter and with their faces near each other's crotches. He pretends to believe their anger at each other gave way to lust.
- Parodied in Of Flame and Shadow with the Sirens' habit of feeling up the other students.Aria: "If we want to, we sirens can see into another's memories through physical contact. That's how we knew about what Sunset Shimmer did here at the school before we talked to her in that hallway. What? Did you really think that we would run our hands and fingers over the other students just help seduce them?"
Sonata: "Wait, we weren't?"
- In Tangled Up In You, Marinette and Adrien end up on her bedroom floor in a compromising position after she knocks him backwards off his chair while trying to steal his phone (again). Sabine walks in on it but is more amused than anything else, calmly telling them when dinner will be ready.
- In the Digimon Frontier fanfic Mistaken, Kouji discovers his twin brother Kouichi has what looks like blood caked on his wrist and promptly starts freaking out with worry. Later he discovers, to his mixed relief and embarrassment, that it was just paint from Kouichi painting sets for the drama club; Kouichi does admit that the paint that caused Kouji's original Freak Out was for an extremely bloody murder scene and that it was formulated to look the exact color of real blood so Kouji's jump of logic wasn't completely unjustified.
- A Little Teary Eyed, by the same author, has Kouichi answering the door in tears, to Kouji's clear worry, but has him then start teasing his brother after he reveals he was chopping onions.
- In This Means War by Jeconais, there is an attempt to break Harry and Ginny up by convincing Cho Harry loves her and arrange for her to kiss him right as Ginny arrives. Ginny does see it, launches a punch, then we get a lengthy flashback to her older brothers teaching her to punch properly... cut to the present, and Ginny hits Cho right in the jaw - she knows Harry well enough that the situation looks exactly as it is to her.
- In the Miraculous Ladybug fic Phase Eight, Nino catches Ladybug and Chat Noir making out on the fire escape outside Adrien and Marinette's apartment, right when they're about to change back.Adrien: This isnt what it looks like.
Nino: It looks like you and Marinette are Chat Noir and Ladybug.
Adrien: Okay, this is exactly what it looks like. Sorry Mlady. I guess the cats out of the bag.
Marinette: You used that line three years ago, you got to come up with better material.
- The Pieces Lie Where They Fell:
- The sequel Picking Up the Pieces has a case of "Not what it sounds like" - Hot Rod arrives at the Luna Guards' headquarters and asks to see their captain, saying that the other night he was sleeping with his wife Sound Mind but missed having Sweet in bed. The Luna Guards' lieutenant assumes he's having an affair with her as a result. When the truth comes out that all three (Hot Rod, Sweet Surprise and Sound Mind) are actually married, Lieutenant Even Hoof and the rest of the guards are utterly stunned.
- A non-romantic version in chapter 15 - when Memorizing mentions that he knows how far his fellow Captain Violet Lulamoon is into writing her next book, Blazen Sun gives him a disapproving look, and Memorizing hastily explains that no, he's not going through their personal affairs; he knows about this piece of information because one of his Guards had fetched and delivered the folder holding the draft in question to Captain Lulamoon on her way out of the office the other day, at her request, and had been told what it was; the Guard had then, per standard protocol, included the information in his end-of-day report.
- In Pokemon: The Final Saga, Ash and Dawn accidentally get themselves locked in a janitor's closet. When Nando opens the door and sees them in a compromising position (because they were trying to find a way out), he assumes he caught them trying to have some "alone time", apologizes for bothering them, and closes the door. The chapter ends with Ash and Dawn shouting for him to come back and get them out.
- The Bridge: Rodan abruptly walks up to Rainbow Dash and presses their foreheads together so that she can join the telepathic conversation he is having with Mothra Lea. When it is over, they look up to find Rodan's kinda love interest Phoenix Flamez jealous and the other bystanders, including Rainbow's parents, thinking they were getting intimate. They frantically try to explain it's not what they think.
- Mr and Mrs Gold: During her interrogation of August, Rose took an axe to his leg to test it as wooden. Eventually someone called Emma who - since she does not believe the curse exists yet - sees Rose holding a bloody axe with a wounded August in her cabin. Subverted, as Rose puts up no fight and even tells her husband not to pay her bail, relying on Augusts cooperation.
- In A Sunny Day in DC, Xander stops an attempted rape only to learn it was a couple roleplaying when the rapist uses a safeword and tells his "victim" that he didn't agree to a threesome.
- White Sheep (RWBY): A Running Gag is someone walking in an apparent sexual situation and told "it's not what it looks like" only for them to come to the correct conclusion. For example, after Emerald is hit by a bucket of paint meant for Jaune he lets her use his shower and borrow some of his clothing since hers are ruined. Cue Weiss walking in to see an unknown girl wearing her partner's clothes. Emerald insists it's not what it looks like but since she's carrying her ruined clothes, Weiss had already figured out what actually happened. Pyrrha sheathes her weapon before anyone notices.
- In Hero's Harem, Silverfang sees Captain Mizuki running in fright from a pair of monsters and moves to dispatch them. In reality, the two monsters are friends of hers and the whole thing was mostly harmless teasing. Luckily, both injured monsters recover from their injuries.
- In Fire and Shadow, it's a case of "Not What It Smells Like". When Firefang comes back reeking of RiverClan cats, Yellowfang gets the idea that he slept with a RiverClan cat. Firefang was hanging around RiverClan cats because he rescued Mistyfoot's kits, and he did have a less-than-platonic cuddle with Mistyfoot, but he didn't mate with her.
- The Self-Insert in Legal Crimes lives in a warehouse filled with toys, videogames, and cartoons, along with having installed a commercial walk in freezer and refrigerator. Batman and Flash assume he's a cannibal who eats children. In reality, the warehouse is cheap, the toys and such are for him, and the massive fridge and freezer are so he doesn't have to grocery shop often since he's rather antisocial.
- In Harry Potter and Libromancy, Hermione sees Harry and Sarah enter an erotic graphic novel. When she goes to investigate, her mother spots her in the adult section holding a book of dirty pictures and jumps to the rather obvious conclusion.
- In Lost Boy, Hiccup tries to assure Stoick that he and Astrid did not have sex, Astrid simply needing company after she found out her father was going to sell her off to Snotlout. Stoick believes him, but warns him that if anyone saw Astrid sneaking to and from the house, everyone would make that assumption, tarring and feathering their reputations further.
- Cat Tales: Non-romantic version in Blueprints, when Matt Hagen/Clayface shows his true "mudman" form to Sly (the bartender at the Iceberg Lounge). Sly starts staring at him wide-eyed, and Clayface gets annoyed because while Sly can handle people like Joker with no problem, he's "gawking at Clayface like Frankenstein's monster". Then it turns out Sly is gawking not because of Clayface's looks, but because Hagen is a former movie star, and Sly is a huge fan of Matt and his movies. Clayface is pleasantly surprised by this.
- A non-romantic variant is Played for Drama in Missing (Miraculous Ladybug). After Marinette mysteriously disappears, many of her classmates initially assume that she ran away from home. Alya, in particular, thinks that she's pulling a stunt for attention, though she comes to deeply regret thinking that way after learning that Lila is, in fact, just as bad as Marinette was trying to tell them. Others fear that her disappearance was far from voluntary. In reality, her disappearance is due to an akuma erasing Ladybug's memories of her alter ego, leading to her staying transformed and continuing to patrol Paris rather than heading home to a life she doesn't remember.
- Super Sentai vs. Super Sentai: Invoked. After being dropped into the sea, Youhei rescues the unconscious Miki and has to take off all her wet clothes to prevent Catch Your Death of Cold. He actually dwells on the idea of her waking up to him undressing her and misinterpreting things, but it doesn't end up happening.
- In TheNamelessDoll's video Anywhere But Here, Anastasia sees Jim with Esmeralda and thinks they're flirting. Jim was just talking with his friend Esmeralda about how he's unsure what to do about his love for Anastasia.
- Just An Everyday Princess (a My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fic): Non-romantic example in chapter seven, when Applejack sees a recently coronated Twilight riding on top of Big Macintosh with her guards on either side. She immediately assumes that Twilight's become just as bad as the Canterlot unicorns who treat earth ponies like property. Twilight later explains to her that Mac was being a gentlecolt and helping her out after she twisted her ankle. As for her guards' behavior (they had ropes on Mac to keep him from "running off with her" like Pinkie had earlier, and insisted on checking out the inside of the house before letting anyone in), they were just being paranoid, something which Twilight herself is not amused by.
- Inverted on two occasions in Along Came a Spider:
- First, Ren walks in on Jaune tied to a chair by Trifa after hearing some screaming. Ren assumes she's a prostitute and Jaune quickly agrees that he hired a dominatrix rather than mentioning Trifa was there to kidnap Weiss.
- Second, after Trifa turns to Jaune due to having left the White Fang rather violently, Nora walks in on her seemingly wearing nothing but one of Jaune's shirts. When Nora says she's not Jaune, Trifa awkwardly offers that she's "with Jaune", which Nora accepts and heads off to give Jaune a high five.
- In one tale in Tales of Fairies, the trope is averted when Cana casually states to Lucy that her making out with Loke while she's without her top and he has his shirt unbuttoned is what it looks like.
- In Awakening, Starscream and Optimus are talking, and Starscream mentions that Seekers have claws. Intrigued, Optimus asks to see them, and Starscream obliges - only to be attacked by Rodimus, who misinterpreted the gesture as an attack on Optimus.
- Played for Drama in Moria's Revenge. Gollum manages to track the Fellowship to Lothlorien and attacks Frodo, only to be attacked himself by Icicle, a warg Pippin befriended during his captivity in Moria. She succeeds in chasing him away, then turns to see if Frodo is alright - at which point, Haldir (who already thinks the worst of Icicle due to her being a warg) barges in and sees her nuzzling a blood-covered Frodo. Naturally, he assumes that she attacked Frodo, and kills her in a misguided attempt to protect the others. When he learns what really happened, he's so guilt-stricken that he asks Galadriel to offer his immortality to the gods in exchange for Icicle being brought Back from the Dead (luckily for him, they revive the warg and allow him to remain immortal).
- In Catastrophes, Hermione slips on a bit of cake after a Food Fight and falls on the floor. When Harry goes to help her up he slips himself and lands on top of her. Then Ron walks in, believes that they were having sex and accuses Hermione of cheating on him.
- Harry has just hidden an "elf on the shelf" in The Rigel Black Chronicles, when Professor Lockhart comes across her, and is about to escort her back into the girls' bathroom, at 4:30 in the morning to check what she was up to. And then Professor Snape finds them.
- In Female Queens and Marco, a monster asks Marco to open a jar of strawberry jam. Just as Marco succeeds, he involuntarily time travels once again, leaving behind his hoodie with strawberry jam on it, which the monster scoops up to eat. Then comes Queen Solaria, who sees a monster with what appears to be blood on his hands and the discarded clothing of the man she fell in love with. The monster doesn't live for much longer.
Not What It Looks Like / Fan Works