Subordinate Excuse

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Valvatorez: You're going to dedicate your life to me...? I just saved your life. Why would you want to do that? My efforts to save you will only be made worthwhile if you use your life to fulfill your own desire.
Fenrich: And that is why I'd like to dedicate the rest of my life to you! That is my desire!


Sometimes, the real reason a character is a lackey is because it's an excuse to hang around someone they like.

Maybe the character is too shy (or proud) to confess his or her feelings to the boss/princess/general. Maybe the brass, the parents, or society in general would disapprove of anything other than a purely business-like relationship between the two of them. Maybe the superior him- or herself would be resistant to the idea. But as an employee, the lackey gets to stay close to their object of affection without arousing suspicions or needing to make any confessions.

There are other factors as well:

  • The superior's job is to watch and take care of the lackey, and this feeds nicely into a sense of being protected and cared for.
  • Being a valued minion feeds nicely into a sense of being needed.

This also works the other way around, where being the boss/princess/general is just an easy way to keep people you like around you without having to actually tell them that, and to inconspicuously provide for their needs. To make this more fair, this usually requires that the lackeys be ambivalent or oblivious to the real reason for their employment. This is especially common if the boss is female, since it lets her moon over someone who is non-threatening when she wants but can dismiss as not really liking him publicly.

An alternate version of the Lackey side of things is when someone chooses to be a subordinate to hang out with the other subordinates, not the superior. See Minion Shipping.

See also Bodyguard Crush. Contrast No Hero to His Valet. Not to be confused with Just Following Orders. Compare Happiness in Slavery.

Examples of Subordinate Excuse include:

Anime and Manga

  • Arguably, any romanticized (but obviously not random) Sempai-Kohai relationship banks on this helping to kick-start relationships between two shy parties.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist:
    • Riza Hawkeye and Roy Mustang. Officially, she's his personal assistant and bodyguard, but their relationship extends back to long before the story began. The manga is more explicit on the "protection" angle, along with the romantic subtext between the two, but there's a law against military fraternization. The author's comments in the third art book confirm that this law is the only reason they aren't married.
    • In a non-romantic sense, this also rather appropriately describes Roy's relationship to his True Companions / underlings. Riza and the four male subordinates are devoted to Roy and his goals and would do most anything he asked of them. The Big Bad is also aware of this as well and scatters them across Amestris to weaken Roy's power base and demoralize him. It doesn't work as well as expected.
  • This is how Hayate in Hayate the Combat Butler is initially employed, although the lead girl usually moons over him in private.
  • Rozen Maiden: Shinku and Jun's ambiguous relationship largely works on the fact that Shinku, who is not particularly cuddly, can treat Jun as her servant. And he's supposed to be her master!
  • In Neon Genesis Evangelion, both Bridge Bunnies Makoto Hyuga and Maya Ibuki are doing their jobs to stay close to Misato and Ritsuko, respectively, not that either Misato or Ritsuko are interested.
    • Misato, however, is not above taking advantage of Hyuga's crush to get him to do things not covered by regulations—spying, picking up her laundry, the usual. She does feel pretty guilty about it.
      • I got the feeling that Hyuga was Misato's fallback (or one of her fallbacks) for when she had no one more interesting in her life. Or at the very least that they had some sort of non-platonic history together.
  • A manga series recently out in America, Dance in the Vampire Bund. Mina Tepes, descendant of Dracula and ruler of all vampires, apparently enlists Akira Regendorf of the Earth Clan (a family of werewolves) as her personal bodyguard because she loves him and the rest of the vampire covenant wouldn't approve of such a relationship. But the only one who doesn't seem to realize this is Akira.
    • Oh, he knows. He just thinks he is unworthy and monsterous (never mind his crush is an ancient vampire queen).
    • He was technically claimed as her personal servant before birth; her finding him to be an adorable infant and a nice little boy probably influenced just where he ended up, though.
  • Tidal Wave of Transformers Energon started out being passionately loyal to Megatron. After his reformatting into Mirage, he became...well, just passionate.
  • The anime of The Familiar of Zero has both Louise and Saito ineffectually use this excuse.
    • Not to mention Siesta. And arguably (towards the end of the third season) Tabitha.
  • Ikkaku Madarame of Bleach notes that while he could become a captain, he will not even show his bankai to anyone else, wanting to stay in the 11th Division and serve under Kenpachi Zaraki.
    • Likewise, Yumichika is powerful enough to be promoted to a Vice-Captaincy, but since Yachiru is the Eleventh's Vice-Captain, he went so far as to make up a new name for his Empathic Weapon to piss it off enough that he wouldn't be found out.
    • Momo Hinamori becomes vice-captain of the Fifth Division because she's in love with the captain, Sosuke Aizen. Unfortunately, after The Reveal, it turns out this was exactly as he planned.
    • Rangiku Matsumoto is thought by many people to feel this way about her Captain Toshiro Hitsugaya
    • Kiyone Kotetsu's enthusiastic crush on Ukitake can easily be seen as her reason for wanting to be his third seat.
    • The manga companion books state this is the situation between Kyouraku and his vice-captain Nanao, with the excuses apparently going both ways. The reason Nanao is never seen on the front lines? Well, no-one knows for certain, but the rumourmill believes it's because Kyouraku simply can't bear to have her there. And then the readers learn what happened to his previous vice-captain...
  • Excel wants to conquer the world, or so she claims. It's really more of an excuse to be with Il Palazzo. In her words, she "writes 'love' and reads 'loyalty'".
    • On the other hand, Hyatt only really follows Il Palazzo because Excel believes in him. Watch the last few episodes if you don't believe.
      • Not quite so in the manga, where Il Palazzo seems to have subjected all his underlings to some idiosyncratic form of brainwashing, with funky side-effects on their personalities.
  • Nakai, a supporting character from Bakuman。 is passionate about drawing manga for Aoki, the script-writer he has a crush on. He eventually tells her that he'll draw for her only if she becomes his girlfriend, leading her to slap him and work solo.
  • Arguably, Gokudera from Katekyo Hitman Reborn. One wonders how far exactly his "loyalty" goes before it starts getting into the realm of making him a Stalker with a Crush.
    • Also Squalo. When he first met Xanxus, he could 'feel' his power and anger, and decided to follow him for it. Pfft for his strength yeah right...
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam 00, semi-competent antagonist ace Patrick Colasour's motivation quickly shifts from being an arrogant fighter jock to being with his beloved taskmaster of a CO, Colonel TAISAA!!! Kati Mannequin. This is explicitly his reason for joining and later defecting from A-Laws in the second season, even though he's really not up to it - wherever his ColonelTAISAA!!! goes, he will follow. They end up married.
  • Bjorn and Askeladd in Vinland Saga. Bjorn fights in Askeladd's crew because he considers Askeladd a friend and wants to look out for him more than anything else, while Askeladd in turn considers Bjorn his only true friend amongst the Vikings.
  • This trope might underlie the relationship between Meganekko Kinon and her boss Rossiu in Gurren Lagann.
  • At the very start of Shakugan no Shana, Shana was only planning to protect Yuji until he disappeared. Then she found out he wasn't going to. She's not exactly his subordinate, so this might be more of a Bodyguard Crush, but still, she listens to his advice and instructions, and trusts him completely. And she is using his MacGuffin as an excuse; it would normally be easy for her to just cut him down, since he's technically Not Quite Human.
  • Commander Amaro towards Lieutenant Kitsurubami. Subverted when he tries to make a pass at her, and she makes it very clear that she can't stand him romantically.
  • Mahou Sensei Negima. Evangeline claims that she's only training Negi, Asuna, and the rest of their group so that she can shape them into her "sub-bosses", although from the way she acts (training them, letting them use her resort for vacation, saving their butts from a demon and going sightseeing with them afterwards, etc.) it's fairly evident that she enjoys their company more that she wants to admit.
  • Battle Butler Haku of Naruto is loyal to Zabuza and does whatever he asks, up to and including murder, even though it pains Haku to kill. Despite this, he sticks around because he wants to be near Zabuza and please the so-called Demon of the Hidden Mist by helping to further his goals.
  • Riley in Digimon Tamers seems to be this to Yamaki. Although is it the same if they're apparently dating?
  • In Hanasakeru Seishounen, Toranosuke seems to be using this to stick close to Kajika. Li Ren doesn't seem opposed to being her guard either.
  • Ghost in the Shell: SAC 2nd Gig. Gohda suggests this is the reason Bateau followed his former military superior, Major Kusanagi, into Section 9. As he's saying this in front of Bateau's colleagues (with the Major listening in) this leads to a Not So Stoic moment on the part of Bateau.
  • In Mouse the main cast uses it in a way convoluted and straightforward at once: officially Sorata Muon is regularly berated by three hottest ladies in his art school. Secretly, Mouse's female sidekicks play submissive games with their boss when they're in mood for this (when they weren't, he got simply tackle-glomped instead).
  • Kyou Kara Maou has Conrad Weller, who while he would certainly serve under whoever was Maou (unless they were so evil he fled the country like Adalbert, theoretically possible) assigns himself away from all his normal duties to more or less babysit the new king 24/7. Because he is, not to put too fine a point on it, obsessed.
    • Mind you, he probably doesn't see Yuri in an even vaguely romantic light. He's just obsessed in the sense that he has to have someone at the center of his world to do everything for.
      • When he was a kid this seems to have been Wolfram, but Wolfram wounded him deeply by repudiating him for his human ancestry. So he was bitter for a while until Gunter straightened him out about arrogance, and then he attached himself to Julia. They didn't allow that to be romantic, because she was engaged, but then she died, and Shinou set Conrad up to fixate on Yuri instead. So now he does.
    • As the man who named Yuri, he has a certain proprietary position he never actually claims, although Yuri often invokes it to try to get Conrad to call him by name instead of 'Your Majesty.' He seemed normal to everybody at home in the ~fourteen years he spent waiting for Yuri to come back, because he was waiting. Once Yuri enters the picture his excessive-even-for-Shin-Makoku devotion becomes very obvious. But since it's technically correct, no one except his best friend Yozak tries to call him on it.
      • And since he threatens to kill Yozak in his first appearance for endangering Yuuri...
  • Perhaps Kinkan from .hack//Sign with regard to Subaru.
  • In the Yaoi manga series (and OVA) The Tyrant Falls in Love the relationship between the protagonists uses a lot of this.
  • Kallen from Code Geass may be this.
  • In One Piece, it seems that post-Time Skip, a large number of Marines serve under Tashigi just because she is an adorable young woman.
  • M'Quve of Mobile Suit Gundam may well have had a crush on his commanding officer, Kycilia Zabi, to whom he was very devoted (his last words as he dies are to order a subordinate to send her his priceless Ming vase). They definitely have the Dark Lady/Black Knight vibe going for them.
  • In the beginning of Eyeshield 21, Mamori became the manager of the Devilbats solely to relieve Sena's workload and stop Hiruma from bullying him. Then the epilogue has her as the manager of the Saikyoudai Wizards, whose captain is Hiruma. Considering the two have had varying amounts of Ship Tease throughout the series, and that they're sharing a car...

Fan Works


  • In the beginning of The Princess Bride, Wesley is in this type of relationship with Buttercup, but this status quickly changes.
  • Shaun of the Dead: David is Dianne's subordinated boyfriend just to hang around Dianne's best friend Liz, whom he has had a crush on for years.


  • Sancho Panza from Don Quixote, especially The Musical adaptation, where he gets his own song about it.
  • Brienne from A Song of Ice and Fire. Too bad he was gay...
  • In Lord of the Rings Eorl the Young, first king of the Rohirrim had a Cool Horse that would not let anyone ride except him.
  • Jessica Atreides in Dune points out to Hawat as evidence for her loyalty, that she actually has the power to suborn Duke Leto's power but refuses as that would not only violate the Bene Geserit Code but would reduce Leto to a cypher and she has no desire to be "married" to a cypher. She is rather content to be The Consigliere.

Live-Action TV

  • Farscape. Braca. Scorpius. A relationship founded on hard work, loyalty, and occasional licking.
  • Firefly: No matter how Badass she is River still takes orders from her dear big brother. Even before when she was in her right mind and she "made him look like an idiot". And after. Even when he was making mistakes. Partly perhaps because it was thought a big brother's traditional job and partly because she seemed happier that way anyway. And partly because after being "treated" she was normally in no condition for independence. She was kind of like a headstrong horse that always likes her jockey.
  • In Star Trek: The Next Generation, Commander Riker refuses promotion and command of a ship of his own several times during the series run. In any other military force, turning down a command is a career killer. Yet he stayed as Captain Picard's flunky for all those years ... (cough)Ho Yay(Cough)
    • However, the TNG-era Federation is not entirely organized along military lines. Witness the children carried aboard its largest and most advanced ships, its luxurious crew quarters, and, well... you get the picture. The fact that turning down a command doesn't cause people to assume that you must be inherently unfit for anything, let alone command, would not be surprising in context.
      • He also did take command of the Titan at the end of Nemesis. Apparently no-one thought 15 years of dedicated service onboard the flagship of the Federation was a problem.
      • Given the two categories of non-Enterprise ships on said show, maybe he was just Genre Savvy.
      • The trope may also be inverted, as Riker - to his surprise - wound up serving alongside his ex (Troi), who was his subordinate and who he still had feelings for. In a Bad Future, Riker admits regret that they didn't get back together. Of course, in the proper timeline, they actually did - and coinciding with their marriage was his promotion to captain of the Titan.
    • In the latter Star Trek: The Original Series movies, this may be an explanation for why Spock continues to serve as Kirk's first officer even after he is promoted to Captain himself.
  • Star Trek: Voyager. When Captain Janeway tells her Number Two Chakotay that they need to "define some parameters" about their relationship, he responds with an "ancient legend" about a warrior who could not find peace, until the day he met a beautiful woman warrior whom he swore to serve for the rest of his days.

Janeway: Is that really an ancient legend?
Chakotay: No. But that made it easier to say.

  • Merlin fans theorize that this is why Arthur keeps Merlin around, despite claiming that he's the "worst servant ever". Combined with their copious Ho Yay...
  • And let's not forget Josh and Donna on The West Wing...
  • On CSI, Sara is heavily implied to have been in love with Grissom since before the start of the show, and took the job in Las Vegas deliberately to be with him.
  • In Kamen Rider Double, this is Kazu's reason for trying to help Saeko overthrow her father. He's upfront about his motives from the start, but she doesn't take him seriously until he becomes the Utopia Dopant, resulting in him killing her when she defies him to help Wakana escape.
  • In Frasier, it's been noted that Martin doesn't need a live-in physical therapist or housekeeper, being quite spry enough to take care of himself as long as Frasier's around, but he liked Daphne so much when he met her that he offered her a live-in position, and she became so attached to the Crane family that she never moved out or switched to a client who didn't treat her like a servant. In one episode where she did miserably prepare to leave after realizing that Martin was doing so well physically she wasn't needed, she may or may not have unconsciously tripped Martin up, which injured him and gave her an excuse to stay.
    • Also, Roz has turned down an offer for a higher-level job more than once because Frasier's her best friend.
  • In Queer as Folk, Vince follows Stuart around from club to club like a loyal puppy because he's had a crush on him for years. A few characters accuse Stuart of purposely not sleeping with Vince because he wants to keep him in this "sidekick" role indefinitely.
  • On The Inspector Lynley Mysteries, the eponymous Inspector Lynley uses this to call his partner Sergeant Havers in on every case he can possibly manage after she is demoted in series 3. Oh, she's a brilliant officer and works very well with him, but that has nothing to do with why he wants her around.


Video Games

  • Rennac from Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones, who complained about Princess L'Arachel constantly, but "never really tried very hard" to escape her service, according to his ending. L'Arachel/Rennac is second only to Sain/Priscilla in the department of "not" paired endings.
    • Also Lyre in Radiant Dawn, who never really liked fighting and only joined the Laguz Army because she had a crush on Captain Ranulf.
  • In the visual novel Songs of Araiah, this is one of the reasons Jason decides to remain as Melissa's servant, especially after it becomes clear that he can leave whenever he wants.
  • In Tales of Symphonia, many fans attribute such feelings to Pronyma (toward Yggdrasill) and/or Botta (toward Yuan).
  • In Tales of the Abyss, it's made clear the Legretta the Quick has feelings for Van Grants, which is mostly the reason she stays by his side and helps his cause.
  • The resident Wrench Wench Tali from Mass Effect uses the impending galactic doom as an excuse to follow Commander Shepard, with whom she immediately falls in love upon their first meeting. Although, this is something of a Revision, since there is no indication of this in until the sequel.
  • In Suikoden III the only reason that Sarah is involved in Luc's plot is to be near him. They're even Together in Death.
  • This is suspected to be the reason for a lot of the relationships in Touhou, both subordinate towards superior and vice versa. The only one that is almost certainly canon though is Eirin, whom exiled herself from her position and her home and killed her allies just so she could be with Kaguya and serve her. She even hides most of her abilities from Kaguya, not wanting to embarrass her by having a subordinate more powerful than her.
  • Tsukihime has this with both the maids. Hisui, who is Shiki's maid, is very fond of him despite her appearance, and while very straight laced, often helps him more than is strictly necessary and even bends the rules to assist him sometimes.
    • Kohaku, Hisui's sister, and in most story paths Akiha's maid, switches places so that she attends to Shiki due to their growing relationship in the path where Kohaku is the Love Interest, in the most blatant example of this trope in-game. Less blatantly, Akiha made Kohaku her maid in the first place in an attempt to show her kindness and friendship so as to atone for her father's horrible abuse to Kohaku.

Web Comics

  • The Fourth has Derk, who never really shows much inclination towards Lord Skarva's ideals, but nonetheless wants to protect him.
  • In El Goonish Shive, Nioi apparently serves Lord Tedd because she likes him a lot and thinks he needs watching over. Lavender (the Uryuom secretary of Mr. Edward Verres) was hinted to be another case and now confirmed.
  • In Romantically Apocalyptic, Pilot seems to have a crush on The Captain. Case in point: when Sniper gets swallowed by a whale, Pilot sends him a note saying "Ha ha ha, now Captain and me can finally be together forever."

Web Original

  • In the Whateley Universe, Greasy is Peeper's sidekick, no matter how abusive Peeper gets. There's a lot of one-sided Ho Yay subtext there.
    • And some of that subtext is actual text.

Western Animation

  • Pinky from Pinky and The Brain never had much interest in conquering the world. He just did it as something to do with his pal, Brain.
  • Lugnut's loud devotion to Megatron from Transformers Animated strays into this sometimes. Megatron is not amused.
    • Sometimes? It's his most defining character trait for Primus' sake! He could give Inferno a run for his money in this department.
      • Speaking of which, for context's sake, Inferno views himself as a loyal drone completely devoted to his - well - queen. The fact that his Catch Phrase is "For the Royalty!" says it all. Megatron is well-aware of this and is frequently irritated by it, though having a devoted minion (that's actually useful) makes up for it.
  • A popular fan reason for why Shego stayed with Drakken in Kim Possible. The creators said Sure Why Not for the Grand Finale.
    • That, and being a Deadpan Snarker presented with the equivalent of an all-you-can eat buffet.
  • At times in The Venture Brothers, it seems like The Monarch's henchman #21 stays around because of his attraction to The Monarch's girlfriend/fiancee/wife, Dr. Girlfriend/Dr. Mrs. The Monarch.
    • As of the Season 4 finale / he decides that's not a good enough reason and defects to S.P.H.I.N.X.
  • Smithers from The Simpsons.