Antagonists have many potential on-screen relationships — white-hot hatred, deep-seated desire for revenge, well-concealed sexual attraction, or bitter contempt — but one of the rarest and most satisfying is not hostility at all, but... friendship. Essentially, a platonic Foe Romance Subtext.
Over the years, a Hero and their nemesis will share trials, failures, and successes at each other's hands, each becoming enormously important in the other's life and more intimate (not that kinda intimate! ...Well, usually) than many best friends. Over the course of a series' many Story Arcs, the two will develop a grudging respect for them as a Worthy Opponent. It can sometimes grow to the point that the villain will refrain from killing the hero in a "cheap" or dishonorable way, and even start to concoct bizarre excuses to avoid doing so entirely, spare his life, or even saving them. In these cases, the hero and villain are very likely to become strange bedfellows to beat a new villain who doesn't play by the rules, which may lead to Fire Forged Friendship. Sometimes, the villain will decide to admit to the friendship and perform a full HeelFace Turn. If another villain kills the hero, this one may make sure that the hero doesn't die alone, and the hero will do the same for them.
Other times, the opposite happens. A villain may notice that this is weakening him against the hero, and he'll promptly jump off the slope that they've been slowly climbing and undoing seasons worth of Villain Decay by doing something truly vile, like stuffing the hero's girlfriend in a fridge, or just plain pulling out new and lethal tactics when the hero is expecting the same old Harmless Villain.
In these relationships, the hero rarely stops trying to catch the villain, while simultaneously making his capture a personal quest or mission. Needless to say, humanizing a person whose capture you've objectified can complicate your priorities.
Related to Worthy Opponent. Compare Affably Evil. Contrast It's Not You, It's My Enemies, Big Bad Friend, Go-Karting with Bowser, and With Friends Like These.... See also Did We Just Have Tea with Cthulhu?. See Dating Catwoman for the (explicitly) romantic version. Often goes well with Antagonist in Mourning. Frequently the target of Foe Yay. Has nothing at all to do with attacking your teammates, nor with Helpful Mooks. There is also the Friendly Rivalry which is essentially a milder version of this trope where the antagonistic characters are just competing (in some kind of sporting event, for example) rather than trying to thwart each other.
- In The Vinyl And Octavia Series, Stumblefeather is quite friendly to Vinyl and Octavia. During the climax of "Vinyl and Octavia Machete Their Way Through the Jungle", he stops fighting Vinyl to sit down and friendily explain to her why he works with Baron von Darkhoof.
- In Sonic the Hedgehog fanfiction Prison Island Break, just like in the game series, the author has Shadow and Sonic gradually evolve from flat-out enemies, into friends who refuse to admit they're friends and fight each other a lot.
- Played with in Jewel of Darkness: Cyborg gets along fairly well with Raven in her civilian guise; however, he has no idea she's Midnight, and she's using him to gather intel on the Titans. However, by the end of the first arc, she's decided she enjoys their interactions enough that he's the only Titan she'd spare if possible.
- While attacking the various Planeswalkers that were gathered in Spark of Creation, half of the enemies are actually rather friendly with them. Despite them being Kage Bunshin of Naruto, he admits the ones based on real people have their personalities shine through. Jhon'ee tells Gideon to consider their fight a friendly spar; Melanie merely wants to teach Nissa humility and chats with Kiora; lastly, old man Timothy is rather happy to hear that Garruk traded the pot he gave him for a spear, since he did get some use out of it that way.
- Really played up in A Sunny Day in DC when Trickster gives Flash exercise tips after reassuring him that no, his ass isn't fat.
- In Cutting Loose Yugito seems to genuinely like Naruto. Doesn't mean she won't try to talk him into defecting, and try to beat him into unconsciousness and kidnap him if he doesn't go along with her voluntarily. A shared status of Jinchuriki does help this status.
- This Bites!: As in canon, Tashigi and Smoker are this for the Straw Hats, as is Hina after she throws in her lot with the former two to bring down the World Government, forming the organization Marine Integrity 3, or MI3 for short. In Chapter 30, Captain T-Bone joins the party, making the organization MI4. After the events at Omatsuri Island, Vice Admiral Jonathan joins, making the organization MI5. And in Chapter 40, Vice Admiral Tsuru joins, making the organization MI6.
- Vice Admiral Jonathan stays friendly with the Straw Hats, Cross in particular, throughout their confrontation. Upon losing, his only reaction is to respectfully acknowledge their success. It stays this way when he joins Marine Integrity as well, making it MI5.
- Rules: Light Yagami views his relationship with Charlie as this. Granted, the enemy part becomes less and less prevalent and the friendly part stronger as the story goes on. By the end of the story, though, it seems what was really going on was Belligerent Sexual Tension.
- In Anything Goes Game Changer, Ranma and Haihane casually chat while fighting each other. It certainly helps that he's a Spirited Competitor and she's a Punch-Clock Villain so even though she has orders to rough him up, they're really just fighting for the enjoyment of it.
- In the Eye of the Beholder: Despite the fact that the QIB and Sycophanta are directly opposed to one another, their leaders Lydia and Lynne have what amounts to a rudimentary friendship, the latter even being Lydia's Hunger Social Link.
- The song "Snoopy's Christmas" depicts Snoopy and his archnemesis The Red Baron sharing a holiday toast after a fierce dogfight. Moved by the distant sound of Christmas bells, the Baron could not bring himself to deliver the final shot, even though he had gained the upper hand. The song is set during World War 1 and is based on the Real Life "Christmas Truce" of 1914—indeed, just like in Real Life, it is Germany who extends the olive branch first.
- Autumn and Sargas from Sequinox when they first properly meet. Mainly because she listened to him talk about what it's like being a star while the others either hid or tried to hit him with chairs and doors.
- Ring of Honor was founded on this principle, to a degree, with its code enforcing this kind of behavior, in theory. However, too many wrestlers ended up rejecting the code and so it was abandoned (then brought back by fan demand but with less concrete rules and no penalties for breaking it).
- Low Ki to his Rottweiler partners outside of Ring of Honor, such as when he was TNA's X Division Champion and took on respective Impact Championship Wrestling Champion Havana Pit bull Ricky Reyes in an inter promotional match.
- Davey Richards and Eddie Edwards are known for fighting each other as much as they are known for teaming together as The American Wolves. They remain as friendly as opponents can be too, almost devoid of vitriol, jealousy or resentment.
- Susan Morton made an effort to help along Brittany Love's HeelFace Turn in PGWA to the point she started a "Let's Go Brittany" chant while tagging with someone else(Maria Montana) against Brittany at Columbia Clash, causing her actual partner to soon tag out. However, Morton would later become jealous of Love overshadowing her, leading to a double turn of sorts.
- Matt Hardy has also played this trope in a different way, through the first half of his feud with Montel Vontavious Porter in 2007-2008. After a Badass Boast by MVP ended up getting the two a tag team championship title match, which they won, their entire tag team reign consisted of sports mini-games and trying to one-up each other in matches. It was very much like this trope, until Hardy's appendix issues gave WWE the need to write him out for an emergency appendectomy. This translated into John Morrison and The Miz beating Matt and a disloyal MVP for the tag titles, MVP invoking a rematch clause immediately allowing them to beat Matt again, and, afterwards, MVP finally fully turning on Matt by beating him up (all this targeting a knee injury Matt was selling) and claiming that he will always be better than him.
- Team Hell No was a tag team consisting of Daniel Bryan and Kane that ran on this trope. There was so much animosity between the two that they argued constantly, stole each other's title belts, and even cost each other singles matches. But when one of them was in serious trouble, the other would become very defensive of his tag team partner.
- Baby face!Solo Darling thinks the purpose of wrestling matches is to make and strengthen friendships. She's even willing to let bygones be with those who put her through tables and break the legs of her legitimate friends.
- "Super Girl" Aja Perera's default stance toward all her opponents. She took a look at a potential three on one disadvantage from Los Abusadores Internacional and saw an opportunity to gain three more "Perera Pals".
- El Canek and Dr. Wagner Junior were this in AAA. They started as friends in CMLL then became enemies when Canek returned to CMLL since Jr. felt "abandoned" when Canek left the promotion, and its pareja belts that he held with Jr, to try and save Lucha Libre Internacional. During their feud Dr. Wagner Junior turned face for unrelated to Canek and stopped antagonizing him and AAA just couldn't resist furthering an unresolved angle from their top rival, even if both luchadors involved in it remained honorable, rule abiding tecnicos.
- Santana Garrett and Ivelisse Vélez were described as "frenemies" after the latter was kicked out of Valkyrie. Starting from Florida, the two wound a path to Chile and back, alternating between posing in photo shoots and aggravating nagging injuries. Garrett has another in Chelsea Green, stemming from the fact Green is the biggest rival of Garrett's most famous student(Gabi Castrovinci).
- Jay Briscoe and Jay Lethal, or really, Jay Lethal and the entire Briscoe family. Even Papa likes Lethal, what they don't are the rest of The House Of Truth, which Lethal happened to be a part of when he won the ROH World Title for the first time, the most prestigious singles belt Jay Briscoe ever won. Papa Briscoe went so far as to cut a surprise promo urging Lethal to drop Truth Martini.
- This was played for laughs in Ring Of Honor when Dalton Castle challenged Bobby Fish for the Television Title belt, as most fans who knew them outside of ROH probably knew them much better for fighting than for friendship and even while describing in detail how well they knew each other Fish couldn't resist being the troll the fans all knew he was. Still, their meeting on "The Fish Tank" successfully averted the "fists" in Talk S How With Fists, Castle just stormed off, and canceled brunch.
- Daysie Day describes the pro wrestling industry as traveling the world and befriending the people you compete with as you do so.
- Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre practically threw himself under Michael Strahan of New York so that the latter would break the sack record.
- When Alan Smith broke his leg playing for Manchester United against Liverpool, the Liverpool physio was first on the scene to do what he could to help.
- Sir Alex Fergusson and Arsène Wenger, two bitter rivals during the days of Arsenal and Manchester United dominance, have become quite good friends following Fergie's retirement, with Fergusson even speaking quite highly of Wenger's achievements in a special message to Wenger for his 1000th game.
- North of the England-Scotland border, Kevin Thomson and Scott Brown were inseparable when they came through the youth ranks together at Edinburgh side Hibs, but are now opponents as the midfield enforcers of beyond-fierce Glasgow rivals Rangers and Celtic respectively. Despite this, they've remained friends - when Brown was sent off in a match between the teams, it was Thomson rather than any of his teammates who calmed him down.
- It is a common occurrence in the NBA.
- Rival centers Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell spent thanksgivings together, talking about model trains.
- Larry Bird and Magic Johnson started off as rivals when they met in the 1979 NCAA championship game and that continued into the NBA as they met several times in the NBA Finals. However, the two of them developed a friendship after shooting a commercial together in the early 1980s and have remained close friends since. When Johnson was diagnosed with HIV, Bird was one of the only people he told before he made it public, and Bird offered him complete support. Later on, Johnson convinced Bird to join him on the 1992 Dream Team so they could play on the same team together for one time. They also worked with each other on a book about their relationship released in 2009 that was eventually adapted into a Broadway play.
- LA Laker Magic Johnson and Detroit Piston Isiah Thomas were such good friends that they met at half-court and exchanged a kiss. However, their friendship ended after Johnson heard that Thomas was spreading rumors that he was gay after his HIV diagnosis.
- Rival point guards Chris Paul and Deron Williams play poker together and exchange texts.
- LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony once embraced one another after a game in the 2012 playoffs.
- Charles Barkley, in his autobiography, pointed to Michael Jordan and Karl Malone as two of his best friends in the NBA. Jordan, of course, prevented Barkley from winning a championship, and "Best power forward: Barkley or Malone?" was one of the great NBA debates of the 80s and 90s. note
- Formula One drivers Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost were bitter rivals on the track, even going as far as sabotaging each other when they were teammates, but both had a mutual respect for one another that became evident after Senna's fatal crash in 1994.
- Most of the Indy Car drivers consider each other this. (Let's just say sleepovers aren't uncommon.) It was apparently a huge shock to Rubens Barrichello when he switched from Formula One to Indy Car one year.
- Happens frequently in Mixed Martial Arts, when members of the same fight camp get matched up. Fighters refusing to fight their teammates has caused a lot of matchmaking problems. Others simply agree that fighting is "just business" and go back to being friends after the bout's conclusion.
- Despite all the hype around the Peyton Manning and Tom Brady rivalry, the two never displayed anything but respect for each other and were able to acknowledge the genuine talent of the other (silly GOATnote debates perpetrated mostly by the media and Fan Dumb aside) throughout their careers. The fact that the two never actually are on the field at the same time and could not physically hurt each other may have contributed to that.
- Max Schmeling and Joe Louis, two boxers of the 1930s, the former German and the latter African-American duked out the world championship between them twice and despite the media of both sides trying to blow the fight up to some political symbol became livelong friends and Schmeling is even on record as saying he was glad to have lost the second bout, given the Unfortunate Implications his win would have enabled the Nazis to get away with.
- Miriam Blasco and Nicola Fairbrother fought for a gold medal in the 1992 Barcelona Summer Olympics judo events (Miriam won). Twenty-four years later, they got married.
- Warhammer 40,000's Orks have no concept of "friend," but they do have a word for "favorite enemy." During the Second War for Armageddon, Warlord Ghazghkull Mag Uruk Thraka found himself a proper nemesis in Commissar Yarrick, and when Ghazghkull captured him in a subsequent campaign he let Yarrick go (after the requisite amount of torture) so the planned Third War for Armageddon would be more entertaining. Ghazghkull considers Yarrick the one humie who knows how to fight, and has been known to kill any lackey who insults the commissar. After all, "good enemies iz 'ard ta find, an Orks need good enemies ta fight like they need meat ta eat an' grog ta drink." Note that this is entirely one-sided: Yarrick despises Ghazghkull and has vowed to pursue him to the ends of the galaxy to avenge the billions killed for his amusement.
- Shadowrun: Before his demise, Matador, AKA Colonel Juan Samuel Pererya, was quite amiable with Shadowland member Winter Rat, who was on the payroll of the Winter Systems Mega-Corp. The two had fought several times in the past but were on quite good terms—they even took to betting on where would be the next place they'd face each other again. This is in stark contrast to the undying, spiteful enmity between people like Neon Samurai and Nightfire.
- Cyrano de Bergerac: Cyrano and De Guiche: De Guiche wants to humiliate Cyrano and even prepares a Last Stand for him. Cyrano doesn't waste any chance to humiliate De Guiche. Meanwhile, they have civilized conversations, they treat each other with the utmost respect; they both have read Don Quixote and discuss it, and De Guiche is the only one who really comprehends Cyrano's motives. At the end, De Guiche even expresses envy for Cyrano's independence and tries to pass a warning to him of a coming assassination attempt. It doesn't help.
- Fiddler on the Roof: the constable and Tevye. Despite one being a Cossack and the other being a Jew, they both show respect to the other and treat each other well, having a friendly chat every once in a while. When the constable receives orders to perform a pogrom in the village, he is obviously uncomfortable with the idea and warns Tevye in advance out of respect for their friendship.
- Prince Igor: the eponymous Prince Igor and Khan Konchak. They often meet on the battlefield and because of that, know each other quite well and respect each other's honesty, determination and courage. When Igor's taken prisoner, he is in for something more like a five-star vacation than captivity Konchak's ready to present him with his own hawks, slaves, even his sword, and gives permission for his daughter to wed Igor's son. Which eventually happens.
- The musical Chicago uses this trope for its ending. After Roxie Hart murders her lover, she recruits noted attorney Billy Flynn for her defense, and he quickly exploits the public's demand for bloodlust to make Roxie a star. This doesn't sit well with Velma Kelly, Billy's former client and media darling until Roxie steals her spotlight. The two openly express their hate and disgust for each other, and trade barbs throughout the musical—that is, until Roxie is found "not guilty" of the murder and the press moves on to a different, more sensational crime. Velma realizes that there's one way to remain famous, and despite the two still hating one another, they team up to form an act that proves extremely successful.
- There's also the relationship between prison warden Matron "Mama" Morton and the women in her cells. Despite being their jailer, she's on friendly terms with all of them, and they appreciate her in return. Mama's even willing to sneak them contraband items like cigarettes, provided they grease her palms (or, as Mama puts it in song: "If you want my gravy, pepper my ragout").
- Fate/stay night:
- Lancer is a pretty decent guy once you get to know him. He generally finds it distasteful to stab noncombatants to death and allows Shirou the chance to defend himself while trying to silence him, and considers 'once tried to kill you' (or even 'once killed you' in Shirou's case) to be a perfectly natural way to be acquainted with someone; no hard feelings attached. This is in-story Values Dissonance because, in his time, enemies could also be drinking buddies the night before a battle, at which they would slaughter each other mercilessly. He gets annoyed when Tohsaka explains that it doesn't work like that anymore.
- Assassin is also a good example of this trope, being perfectly polite and courteous to Saber even as he's trying to separate her head from her body, and complimenting her swordsmanship when she kills him at the end of Unlimited Blade Works.
- In Heaven's Feel, this is the only way to describe Kirei Kotomine's relationship with Shirou.
Shirou: I see. I'm sorry I troubled you... um, I'm glad you were awake.
Kotomine: You're thanking me? Are you sick? I will listen if something is worrying you.
- The Ace Attorney series has both Phoenix/Edgeworth and Apollo/Klavier. They are technically "enemies" (prosecution vs. defense) but both have worked together in search for the truth. Edgeworth needs some defrosting and being hit with some Awful Truths for it to happen, while Klavier is friendly from the get go.
- Homestar Runner:
- Homestar Runner and Strong Bad evolved from generic enemies to this trope, and finally to Vitriolic Best Buds. Strong Bad is also this in relation to Strong Sad and The Cheat. He's a bit harsher on Strong Sad, and quite a bit friendlier to The Cheat, but all of the relationships have a bit of friend and a bit of enemy in them (usually on Strong Bad's part).
- There was also the time Blue Laser invited the Cheat Commandos over for Thanksgiving dinner (except the overzealous Gunhaver).
- Caboose from Red vs. Blue is generally a very nice guy, even to the Reds when they attempt to kill him. The reason for this is because he's an idiot. The Reds themselves don't capitalize on this, though it's debatable whether this is due to them being friendly, or stupid themselves. Eventually all of them become Friendly Enemies when its revealed that Blood Gulch is just a training ground for the Freelancers, and they weren't really at war. Except for Sarge; he's Red, they are Blue, and that's all he needs to know.
Caboose: Hey Simmons. Um, are you guys coming to attack me? Um, because I'm kinda busy right now. Do you think you could attack me later maybe, like, uh, like next week?
Simmons: We're not attacking you, I'm just coming over to spy on you.
Caboose: Oh, awesome!
- Yuki and Sonya of Ménage à 3, sort of and perhaps increasingly. Their acquaintance started with a fight over a man, they can't stand each other, physical violence is not unknown — but they play together in the same band, and if anyone insults the woman they both love (but who they don't, oddly, get to fight over much), they'll snap into a casually sexy embrace like a shot, and make their priorities clear.
- The Non-Adventures of Wonderella:
- Wonderella and Hitlerella. So much so that, in the "Death of Wonderella" strip (which parodies both the Death of Captain America and The Death of Superman, Hitlerella attempts to take up the Wonderella mantle. Both had to work to patch up their Friendly Enemy status after going through a rough patch where Hitlerella felt that her enemy didn't care anymore, and Wonderella was bereft to find her fighting other heroes. Hitlerella challenged Wonderella to "Make me wish I'd killed you years ago." Wonderella even goes so far as to say in her Video Will that she makes in another strip that Hitlerella is most likely the one who killed her, adding, "Congratulations, Hitlerella, now you have nothing to live for." She's apparently even willing to bail Wonderella out of bad dates.
- There's also Wonderella and Doctor Shark. The two get along great, they hang out together, he shows her inventions (and offers to do her cosmetic surgery in one strip). But he's also a diabolical supervillain.
Wonderella: Oh Dr. Shark! Sometimes I forget you're occasionally a supervillain.
Dr. Shark: So do I, Wonderella. So do I.
- Eerie Cuties: Tiffany tried to stake Layla multiple times, but kept failing due to being easily distracted and because of how well they got along. Which was compounded by the fact she's a nice girl who suffers from Chronic Hero Syndrome. Tiffany even saved her from Faith, by allowing Layla to feed on her and called her afterwards to see how she was feeling. It was only a matter of time before they made it official.
- In The Order of the Stick, Minister Malack of the Empire of Blood is genuinely friendly with Durkon, despite only having just met him. The two enjoy a conversation about theology over tea (Malack insisting that death gods, his patron god Nergal included, have a bad reputation), and Malack even helps Durkon with his Mass Death Ward spell. When Tarquin "convinces" him to join the Linear Guild, Malack insists that he alone face Durkon and is furious when Nale disregards this request. Then it's revealed that Malack is a vampire and is looking to sire some new "children", and that, his own plans for the continent and Durkon's hatred of the undead destroy their friendship.
- In Bob and George, once a year, all characters, including villains, will stop whatever they are doing in order to celebrate the comic's anniversary by eating ice cream together.
- Girl Genius: Zeetha is cultivating such a relationship with Bangladesh DuPree in the aftermath of the Beast of The Rails arc. Both are eagerly anticipating testing each other's mettle in a fight (but can't at that time due to Sanctuary rules at the Corbettite depot). Granted, the high probability that it was Bang's pirates that originally kidnapped Zeetha (and thus, Zeetha who took out the entire pirate fleet) means that they're both looking for vengeance on each other and the "friendly" aspect of this Trope might well be short-lived.
- Cassiopeia Quinn: Cassiopeia herself tries to be this to Vrax; how much it works is up for interpretation. She even bought her a new dress!
Vrax: Wait, how did she know my size?
- Mage & Demon Queen: Malori has ascended the Demon Tower so many times that the demon bosses below Velverosa just let her through. Partly because she can easily wipe the floor with all of them, but also to facilitate her pursuit of a relationship with Velverosa.
- Val And Isaac: Space Dread has more or less settled into a "wacky neighbour" role, but when a high enough bounty is posted for Val, she'll still reach for a weapon.
Val: (pointing a gun at Dread) Dread, c'mon.
- Epic Rap Battles of History:
- In one episode, this is subverted. Martin Luther King Jr. is depicted as a Nice Guy who openly admires his rap rival Mahatma Gandhi, and his raps are mostly just light-hearted teasing and Badass Boasts. However, Gandhi prefers personal attacks and comes across as a bit of a Jerkass.
- Another episode pitting Bill Gates and Steve Jobs plays it straight. They take shots at each other, but compared to other episodes these two had the least animosity between them in their raps (more of each one's raps was building themselves up rather than tearing the other one down). Jobs would Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence; Gates outright admits he considers him a friend, and the rest of his verse implies that without a brilliant mind like Jobs' to challenge him Gates falls into Pride and megalomania... leading to the creation of HAL-9000.
- Done again for Jim Henson vs. Stan Lee, where they mostly limit themselves to shout outs. When Stan Lee actually says something hurtful he apologizes, and then the two spend the rest of the "battle" commiserating until Disney shows up and buys out both companies.
- In the Noob franchise, Tenshirock's objective in to drive as many people away from MMORPG as possible. He's however quite friendly to the protagonists, has made one of them his partner in crime and eventually admits to having a You Will Be Spared position to their gaming life. Another factor in this is that the title guild is true to its name and Tenshirock considers that they help his purpose better online than offline.
- In The Nostalgia Critic, Tamara and Beth Elderkin. They're actually good friends in real life, but they sing about that not being allowed so they have to be "frenemies".
- In his self-proclaimed role as the Red Panda's archnemesis, Red Panda Adventures supervillain the Mad Monkey is generally quite friendly toward the Red Panda, even as he's trying to kill the mystery man. He's less cordial towards the Flying Squirrel, since he considers her an extra. As time goes on, the Mad Monkey's plots revolve more around fighting the Red Panda, and because, more often then otherwise, the Monkey doesn't put human life at serious risk, the Red Panda seems to reciprocate. At the end of "Stop the Presses", when the Red Panda is forced to let the Mad Monkey escape to capture all of Archangel's goons, he takes the time to make sure the Mad Monkey sees him waving his fist at him angrily.
- Crypt TV's parody of the The Exorcist has a priest visiting the house of a possessed girl, but just as he starts to prepare to banish the demon, they both realize they know each other, and begin to reminisce like old college buddies about all the times they've gone against each other; all the while, the victim's sister watches on, horrified and confused as the demon and priest laugh and catch up, like the best of friends.