Side Pairing

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Synonyms: secondary pairing, background pairing, minor pairing, past relationship
See also: Pairing, OTP, Pair the Spare
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In the context of a ship fic, a side pairing is a pairing that is described in the story, but is not the main focus. Side pairings can vary in "screen time" and importance; a "secondary" pairing might have almost as much plot relevance as the "main" pairing, or it might be better described as a "background" or "minor" pairing that is only mentioned incidentally.

For example, in Harry Potter fandom, Harry/Draco stories often include references to Ron/Hermione or Sirius/Remus as other couples who are also together; in these cases, R/H and S/R are side pairings.

Some less popular pairings are more likely to appear as a side pairing in stories about more popular ships. Fans of the side pairing have been known to complain about lack of representation in fic generally. If their pairing is only mentioned incidentally in a particular fic that listed it as a pairing, fans may also complain about misleading header information.

"Secondary" and "minor" can also be used to describe a pairing's overall prevalence in fanfic rather than its centrality to a given story.

A "background" pairing might appear in a story labeled gen if the romantic aspect of the characters' relationship is not important to the main story line. This is particularly true of canon-derived and het pairings. Owing to differences in different fans' understanding of the label, some fans have been known to object to works with a background (uncanonical) slash pairing being labelled as gen, even if it plays a very minor role in the story and there is no explicit material.

A "past relationship" is a type of side pairing in a fic that occurs before the main action of the story. The relationship may be entirely "offscreen" and simply referenced by characters in the story, or a flashback may be included.

There is some disagreement on tagging etiquette when it comes to Archive of Our Own and fic. Fans of the secondary pairing may be disappointed to find it when they are looking for a fic featuring it; on the other hand, people squicked out by the ship may want it tagged so they can avoid it.