The discussion in the comments to my recent White Collar post got me thinking about this (again), so I decided to make a separate post on it.
There's a trope I absolutely love, that I only recently became aware of -- actually, it was watching White Collar and considering the characters' relationships that made me aware of it. I have known for a long time that I really like the general trope of "enemies working together and becoming friends", but it took me awhile to realize that there is a specific subtrope of it that I simply adore, and variations on it tend to pop up in my original fiction all the time: enemies/opponents who really like each other, although they don't ever plan to switch sides.
(Also, surprisingly, TV Tropes doesn't seem to have a page for this -- at least I can't find one! Their "vitriolic best buds" trope is about the closest I can find, but it really isn't
Basically, this isn't "redeemable bad guy", or "characters who hate each other at first and then become friends", or "characters who fight all the time but really care about each other deep down". This is, specifically, two people who are technically
on opposite sides, but like each other from the beginning (for no reason either of them can fathom, usually), despite remaining devoted to their respective causes. They don't ever plan on joining the other one's side -- either they can't
, because the conflict is inherent in what they are (angels and demons, say), or they believe that they're on the right side and the other person is clearly wrong (but still a friend, for all of that). Usually, they're in a position where switching sides would be, if not impossible, then difficult and dangerous and require a total rethinking of their life philosophy. But what makes this trope work for me, I think, is the "friends across the gulf between them" aspect of it. They're not really trying to change each other. They just like each other.
(White Collar actually doesn't
hit this trope most of the time, at least not directly, because Peter and Neal are a little too
much on the same side for it to work. It's close to it, but it isn't it, because Neal changing and becoming more a part of Peter's world is a big part of the series, and that's exactly what this trope isn't
for me. Pre-series, it hits it, however, especially in the various fanfics that have Neal and Peter drifting in and out of each other's lives before Peter catches him. And at the very end of season three, it hits it again -- which was the moment that made me go "Oh!" and realize that this trope is actually a Thing That I Like.)
One of the most archetypical examples I can think of is Crowley and Aziraphale from Good Omens. They're a demon and an angel; they can never be on the same side, and they don't want to be. But they seem to have gotten along from the very beginning, despite knowing they probably shouldn't, and their amiably friendly, "we're probably terrible people to be meeting like this, but we don't care" sort of no-strings-attached relationship is exactly
what I'm thinking of.
There is an inherent tension in this kind of relationship, because usually the characters belong to groups, agencies or causes that are directly opposed to each other, so at any time they might be ordered to do something that threatens the other one (or might choose to do it themselves, depending on what happens). And it can evolve into something else, but usually it stops being this if it does (though I might still really like it for whatever it's become, of course).
I can't, off the top of my head, think of any (canonically) romantic examples that fit the trope -- probably because romance is usually all about overcoming the obstacles so that the couple can be together, and the whole point
to this trope is that the characters don't particularly want
to overcome the obstacles between them. The only way you could write a romance this way is if the couple had an on-again, off-again relationship that could be terminated at any time -- which is basically how these friendships function -- and most people don't write romance that way. (Though frankly I'd love it if there were more canon romances that worked like that ...)( Various examples from books, comics, TV )
Thoughts? Additions? Who else you can think of? :D I'm sure that I'm overlooking some really obvious ones, but this is what I came up with off the top of my head. I keep thinking that there must be quite a few from anime and manga, due to their large casts and generally sympathetic villains, but I can't think of any.