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Trope · Genre
Synonyms: Polyamory, Polyship, Polyfic, Multi
Related: Threesome, GSF, Teamfic, Sedoretu, Triad Verse
See Also: OT3, OT4, OT5
Tropes · Slash Tropes · Tropes by Fandom
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A poly or polyamorous relationship, also called a polyship, is a relationship between three or more characters which is deeper and more long-lasting than a one-time threesome/moresome sex scene.

The word poly is shortened from polyamory, which is a modern word that describes the practice of multiple simultaneous romantic or sexual relationships, generally with the consent of all parties involved.[1] Polyships are often seen as distinct from het, femslash, and slash ships and are treated as a separate category.[2][3][4][5][6]

Common poly relationships within a particular canon may be described as OT3, OT4, etc. In these cases, it is generally understood which characters are involved, but in some canons there is ambiguity.

In Fanfiction

Polyfic is fan fiction that depicts polyamorous relationships between characters. Polyfic is often related to teamfic, where all members of a canonical team may be written as romantically/sexually involved.

Most fans would consider conduit fic, love triangles or cheating fic to not be polyamory. [7] Stories that start out with a poly relationship and end in coupledom, or stories depicting a couple who occasionally have a casual relationship with a third might be considered polyamory, but fan opinion would be more varied.

An example of polyfic would be fan fiction about a relationship between Harry, Hermione and Ron from Harry Potter. That relationship could be a triad, which involves all three characters in a, usually equal, group. It could also be a vee or V, which might be Harry/Hermione & Harry/Ron, but not Ron/Hermione.[8]

While threesome or poly stories can be found dating back to the 1980s in media fandom, most older stories were conduit fics or treated the idea of a threesome as a sexual kink. The stories were often PWPs. Once a Thief aired 10 years before Leverage, and while both shows have a similar structure of three young dynamic characters working together in a team setting, Leverage has a noticeable amount of poly-themed stories, vids, art and discussion while Once a Thief was almost exclusively slash. White Collar fans started talking about the poly potential of the show after only a few episodes had aired.

Polyrific Fandoms

  • White Collar - Elizabeth/Peter/Neal seems to be about as popular as Peter/Neal [9]
  • Pirates of the Caribbean - Jack/Elizabeth/Will may be the most common, but there are many other combinations.
  • Rooster Teeth - In addition to multiple three and foursomes, AHOT6 (Achivement Hunter) and FHOT7 (Funhaus) are very common. However, due to the departure of Ray and the addition of Jeremy, the people included in the AHOT6 can vary. Spoole's departure, and the addition of Elyse, have brought similar uncertainty to the FHOT7. Many writers simply include everyone, making the poly groups even bigger. Since almost everyone at Rooster Teeth has great chemistry, almost anyone is shippable with anyone else.

Not poly dominant fandoms, but poly friendly:

  • Ouran High School Host Club - The members of the Host Club are paired in any and every combination from OT3 to OT7.
  • One Piece - "Merryshipping" involves shipping the entire crew, sometimes sexually, sometimes not.
  • House, M.D. - Lisa Cuddy/Gregory House/James Wilson is the most popular grouping but others, both slash and mixed are often written.
  • Leverage - Alec Hardison/Parker/Eliot Spencer is a popular grouping both in fanworks and in discussions about the subtext in the show.
  • Popslash
  • Bandom
  • Sherlock -- Sherlock/John/Mary
  • Star Trek - James Kirk/Spock/Nyota Uhura is the main poly grouping in the fandom building on the canon ship Spock/Uhura in Star Trek (2009). Kirk/Spock/McCoy
  • Stargate: Atlantis - OT4 in SGA fandom usually refers to Ronon Dex/Teyla Emmagan/Rodney McKay/John Sheppard, but is sometimes used for groupings with Aiden Ford instead of Ronon Dex. There are also a few works focusing on Jennifer Keller/Rodney McKay/John Sheppard, building on the canon ship of Jennifer/Rodney. John Sheppard/Rodney McKay/Carson Beckett was popular for a time for a time amongst slashers.
  • DBSK - The members of this boyband are sometimes written as an OT5.
  • Top Gear - James May/Jeremy Clarkson/Richard Hammond
  • Pundit RPF - Stephen Colbert/Anderson Cooper/Keith Olbermann/Jon Stewart and sometimes Rachel Maddow
  • DC Comics - Bart/Kon/Tim, or Impulse/Superboy/Robin, is a common trio in Batverse fanfic. Batman/Superman/Wonder Woman is known as "Trinity." Superhero teams are often the subject of poly fic.
  • Harry Potter - Snape/Harry/Draco is popular enough to have a community, drapery_snarco, at both Livejournal and Insanejournal. Other fairly common poly arrangements include Harry/Ron/Hermione and Harry/Ginny/Draco.
  • The Avengers (Marvel) - Several configurations of poly ships are common.
  • Supernatural - Sam/Dean/Castiel and sometimes Sam/Dean/Castiel/Gabriel
  • Ace Attorney - Phoenix/Maya/Edgeworth. Apollo/Juniper/Athena isn't as widely popular, but is well-liked among some fans.
  • Fire Emblem - Geoffrey/Elincia/Lucia and a number of threesomes involving twins Ephraim and Eirika. Hinata/Oboro/Takumi in Fates fandom is being embraced lately, and Niles/Leo/Odin is already quite popular.
  • One Direction - One Direction has contains a multitude of OT3 combinations, including Zarriall, Zaniam, Stylinshaw, Lilourry, and Zianourry. See List of One Direction Ship Names for more.
  • KPop - such as SHINee where all 5 members are shipped as OT5
  • Voltron: Legendary Defender - "Polydins" refers to shipping the paladins (main characters) in poly relationships

Fanworks With Poly Themes

Apple Candy and Imma Be

Two vids made by the same vidder, talitha78, explore poly themes in two very different ways. One is a plot focused piece that uses the song and the canon, and adds to it, to create a plausible poly story. The second is a character study, at once a celebration of the characters' individuality, and also an examination of their team dynamic as revealed by the canon and flavoured by the song.

Apple Candy is a Star Trek Reboot vid set to the song Apple Candy, by Ben Lee.[1]

The vid is from Jim Kirk's point of view and begins by focusing on Kirk's very male gaze view of Nyota Uhura. The almost vulgar line from the song, "I wanna go where he's been," leads the viewer to see Uhura as primarily someone that Kirk wants, even though he is seeing her in all her aspects--beautiful, full of humour, intelligent, talented--the list goes on and on. Gradually the story changes, and while still from Kirk's POV, now he is seeing Uhura more the way Spock sees her, utilizing the canon relationship from the film to broaden Kirk's view of Uhura into a more complete person.

The song gives us the line, "I want you and I want him," at nearly the half-way point of the vid, and the view abruptly changes to Kirk's focus on Spock. We see Spock the way Kirk does--as an adversary, a rival, a compatriot, a fellow adventurer, nearly, but not quite yet, friends. The line, "I wanna know what he knows," brings the original Trek universe Spock into play. A fandom-savvy viewer can't help but think of TOS Kirk/Spock during the section that uses the the song's lyrics to show that Kirk wants both versions of Spock.

The ending shots of the vid are the new Kirk, the one that knows what TOS Spock felt, with both Uhura and Spock, and we see them as a team that works together and could now be three together in all ways.

Imma Be is a Leverage vid set to the song Imma Be, by the Black Eyed Peas.[2]

The vid uses the vocal changes in the song, where sections are performed by different vocalists, to showcase character-focused looks at Parker, Hardison and Eliot individually. Each of these opening sections uses both the lyrics and the video to illuminate three very unique individuals. Parker: "Imma be spreadin' my wings." Hardison: "Imma be brilliant with my millions." Eliot: "Imma be up in the club/Doin' whatever I like."

As the song moves into multiple vocalists, so does the vid, and we see our three characters as a group in various scenes that show them still as individuals, but with a stable dynamic when they are three together. Or as stable as any group containing these three gets.

Other Fanworks

  • Between Friends, believed the first published Kirk/Spock/McCoy story, and therefore, probably the first threesome story, was printed in Obsc'zine 4 in 1980.
  • In the Wrong Story and sequels by Katie have been cited [10] as some of the earliest examples of Jack/Sam/Daniel in Stargate SG-1 fandom written as a functional long-term relationship.




Individual fandoms

Meta/Further Reading


  1. Polyamory article at Wikipedia
  2. Pinboard: Tag Bundle /Poly for kinkme_merlin, accessed Sept. 2, 2013.
  3. Azarsuerte: "I should probably give the remark some context: my fanfic output is overwhelmingly het. By which I mean 100+ stories compared to 16 m/m, 8 f/f and 3 poly." Posted Sept. 2, 2013, accessed same day.
  4. Poly Twificrecs (listed as "Polyamory" in the sidebar), accessed Sept. 2, 2013.
  5. Poly-Fic Rec List Mfirefly10: "As the subject suggests, this is that rec list of poly-fic I promised." Posted April 1, 2011. Accessed Sept. 2, 2013.
  6. Polyamorous Avengers "All Avengers ships of more than two people at a time are praised and readily available at this awesome resource." Accessed Sept. 2, 2013.
  7. Mod Post on Share and Share Alike What To Post...and What Not To Post, accessed April 1, 2010
  8. Polyamory Terms and Concepts, accessed April 2, 2010
  9. The Tags Page on whitecollarfic on November 30, 2010 shows 243 stories tagged Peter/Neal and 225 tagged Elizabeth/Peter/Neal
  10. You down with OT3? (Yeah, you know me!) by Tafkarfanfic, in the ship manifesto community on LiveJournal, accessed April 2, 2010