So you have two characters who seem to work well together and they seem to have a decent relationship going on. They are loyal to one another and seem to respect each other very well. You can tell that they're friends, right?
Well, in the case of one particular character, not exactly.
This is the trope where a character flat out denies their friendship with one (or more) characters for some reason. Perhaps the character is The Lancer who has trouble getting along with The Hero and doesn't like working with them that much. They may be a natural-born loner who isn't concerned about intimate friendship. They may be a prideful Jerkass who thinks that having friends makes them uncool and weak. When the chips are down, they still do help out their "friend" because it's the right thing to do.
Sometimes, in other variants, the character may not be in denial after all. Reasons being that the character doesn't fully know the hero since in order to be a friend, you must be intimate to know who they are; most examples of this would have a Nice Guy call the other "buddy", "pal", or "friend", but the offended character responds with "I'm not your buddy/pal/friend." A character in the workforce is appointed to work with a group of people, but friendship isn't a part of his job description since Being Personal Isn't Professional. Even to the extremes, the character in question is actually the hero's arch-nemesis either by honesty or revelation. Obvious, isn't it?
On a brighter note, there are high chances for the character to consider that the other character is truly their friend, and from that point on, the bond will become stronger and better than it was before. If they are not technically friends, they will soon become closer as the series progresses.
This is often common in crime scenes where a character denies friendship with the second party as a ruse to escape responsibility for their crimes, especially in a trial. There is also the reverse situation, where a character doesn't want their enemies to find out about the friendship to protect the friend from becoming a target.
This could be the character trait of one or two characters in duo of Vitriolic Best Buds. A group of characters can do this to one particular person in their group, which is The Friend Nobody Likes. Can be the kind of relationship the Ragtag Bunch of Misfits would have. Often related to Hidden Heart of Gold. Can be utilized as the tool to permanently end a friendship, which is We Used to Be Friends, or at least temporarily in a Feud Episode.
- In Bleach, Uryu Ishida will make it very clear that he and Ichigo are not best friends, despite being an frequent ally to him and the other Soul Reapers.
- Subverted in Code Geass: when Suzaku first shows up at Ashford Academy, he tells Lelouch that it's better for them to do this, since being associated with an Eleven might raise too many questions; Suzaku is one of the few people who knows Lelouch is an exiled Britannian prince, which is how they met in the first place seven years earlier. Lelouch goes along with it for a while, but after Suzaku saves him from falling out of the school's clocktower he openly declares in front of the student body that they're friends, and asks Student Council President Milly to give Suzaku a position on the council. This wasn't just motivated by the life-saving, but because Lelouch knew Suzaku was being bullied and harassed for being Japanese and wanted to put an end to it.
- This happens in Dragonball Z when Piccolo became infuriated of being defeated by the androids, but the others try to calm him down:
Krillin: Wh-what's that look on your face? Do you have a plan?! C'mon, tell us! We're your friends!Piccolo: Friends?! Don't press your luck. When do you think I became your friend? I'm a demon! Don't you ever forget that!! I'm merely using you to take over the world!!
- Noir: Mirielle needed Kirika to stay alive to help her find the answers to Soldats, but this doesn't change the fact that both are Heterosexual Life-Partners with a dose of Ho Yay.
- One Piece: When Luffy forms an alliance with Trafalgar Law in the Punk Hazard arc that's supposed to be an Enemy Mine, it's pretty clear right from the get-go that Luffy thinks of them as pals, and by the time of the following Dressrosa arc, he uses the same Japanese word for "friend/comrade" ("nakama") when referring to Law that he uses for his crewmates, making it clear that he sees him as a very close friend. Law, however, always denies that they're friends, insisting that they're just allies and nothing more. While his initial protestations feel sincere (since he was fairly pissed with Luffy at the time), it's implied by the end of the Dressrosa arc and beyond that he does see Luffy and the rest of the Straw Hats as friends and is just in denial about it.
- Lina Inverse and Naga the White Serpent in Slayers OVAs and movies are Vitriolic Best Buds who will vehemently deny that they are best buds, or any kind of buds. Both claim that the other is their sidekick. Or rival, depending on the mood.
- In the first season of Sonic X, Knuckles would occasionally deny being friends with Sonic, but this is due to his disapproval of the hedgehog's reckless nature and snarky attitude. It also doesn't help that Knuckles is quite jealous of Sonic's freedom and popularity while he is a loner tasked with guarding the Master Emerald.
- Yugami from Yugami-kun ni wa Tomodachi ga Inai is a deliberate loner who happily defies The Power of Friendship and is ignored by his classmates because they find him a pain to deal with. Despite his Brutal Honesty, New Transfer Student Chihiro talks to him often. Classmates start wondering if the two are friends because no one has been able to talk to Yugami for more than five minutes — except Chihiro. Any suggestion of a friendship between them is shot down by both parties, however.
- Dragon Ball Super: During the Future Trunks Saga, Future Zamasu states that he and Goku Black are not friends, just kindred spirits working together on the same dream. Goku points out that that's basically the same thing. It's later revealed that Goku Black is in fact an alternate version of Zamasu who used the Dragon Balls to steal Goku's body; they don't see each other as friends because they're literally the same person.
- In Love And Lies, Nejima becomes concerned when his best friend Nisaka is becoming distant, and confronts him after he leaves upon hearing a hurtful conversation in the classroom. Nisaka promptly tries to push Nejima away and says that they were never true friends because Nisaka cares for him in a different way than Nejima does him.
Nisaka: You can't kiss a friend.
- Bring Me To Life:
- On two separate occasions, Pearl and Nash refer to Angel and Spike as friends. Both respond that they're not friends and never will be.
- In chapter 27, Wesley also makes it clear that he still holds a grudge against the rest of Angel Investigations for abandoning him due to the situation with Holtz and Connor back during Angel Season 3. He states that he's only there to help stop the First and prevent Armageddon, he's not their friend or comrade in arms, and he's not Angel's flunky anymore; once this is over, he plans to go his own way.
- Played for Laughs in Skyhold Academy Yearbook, where Varric and Dorian have something of a Friendly War. When they amicably discuss a topic in one installment, Josephine and Leliana coo a bit over how they like each other more than they want to admit. They both deny it (Varric even calls it "fake news"), but neither is serious about the denial and everyone knows it.
- In Bloom Fully on the Tall Wall, Homura isn't used to friends and her depression doesn't help. As a result, she initially denies being Togo and the other girls friend.
- Jack of 48 Hours has this quote that comes in mind as he forms a grudging partnership with Reggie, a convict, to hunt down Ganz:
Jack: Now, get this! We ain't partners. We ain't brothers. And we ain't friends. I'm puttin' you down and keepin' you down until Ganz is locked up or dead. And if Ganz gets away, you're gonna be sorry YOU ever MET me!
- Ray Jackson of Blood Sport has this memorable phrase:
"I ain't your pal, dickface."
- From Jerry Maguire:
Bob Sugar: It's not 'show friends'. It's 'show business'.
- Ocean's Eleven has the two Malloy twins having this exchange:
Turk Malloy: Watch it, bud.Virgil Malloy: Who you calling bud, pal?Turk Malloy: Who you calling pal, friend?Virgil Malloy: Who you calling friend, jackass?Turk Malloy: Don't call me a jackass.Virgil Malloy: I just did call you a jackass.
- In Pineapple Express, Dale and Saul fall into this trope after Dale got himself arrested for smoking a joint and selling weed to middle school kids, also escaping from the police. The two got into an argument, in which Dale tells Saul that they were never friends and never will be. The two did reconcile at the end of the movie, however.
- Vincent and Butch have a short conversation of this in Pulp Fiction:
Butch: You lookin' at something, friend?Vincent: You ain't my friend, Palooka.Butch: What's that?Vincent: I think you heard me just fine, Punchy.
- In Role Models, Wheeler begins a rather rocky bond with Ronnie Shields:
Wheeler: You ready, pal?Ronnie: I ain't your pal, vanilla.
- In Baccano!, Chi tells Christopher that he doesn't consider him as a friend, but he considers him as somebody he wants to kill despite never actually having gone through with it due to circumstances.
- In The Kite Runner, Hassan considers Amir a friend, but Amir considers him anything but. This is only because Hassan is Amir's servant, as he points out to Assef. He's also a bit jealous of how his father treats Hassan.
- They Cage The Animals At Night: At the orphanage, there's a "kid rule" that everyone abides but no one talks about: Don't make friends. It's used so that they don't get hurt when their friends leave the orphanage. Jennings learns this the hard way when his buddy Mark won't agree to be his friend.
- In the The Big Bang Theory episode "The Excelsior Acquisition", we have Sheldon and Penny introducing themselves to Stan Lee.
Penny: Hi. I'm Penny. This is my friend Sheldon.Sheldon: We're not friends at the moment. Depends on how this goes.
- There's also the episode where Sheldon runs away and leaves a goodbye video addressed to "three friends and one acquaintance." The end of the episode reveals that the "acquaintance" is Howard.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: In "Lover's Walk", Buffy and Angel try to act like they're Just Friends, but Spike calls them on it, telling them they'll never be just friends. Buffy is forced to acknowledge that Spike's right, and tells Angel as such near the end:
Buffy: We're not friends. We never were. I can fool Giles, and I can fool my friends, but I can't fool myself... or Spike, for some reason.
- The Cosby Show: A parental example has Cliff trying to tell Rudy that he's her friend, but Rudy responds that he's her dad.
- The episode "It's A Book" from Jon & Kate Plus Eight has the young Leah Gosselin saying this:
"Don't call me buddy. Call me Leah."
- At the end of the second episode of Luther, the titular character and Alice Morgan have this conversation:
Alice Morgan: (3-hand salute) Brownies honor.John Luther: One coffee doesn't make us friends.
- From the episode "The Final Sacrifice" in Mystery Science Theater 3000:
Satoris: Why don't you ask your friend when he arrives?Crow T. Robot: Ha. The joke's on you. I don't have any friends.
- Merlin: Frequently between the titular character and Arthur.
- Shortly after the escape from Fox River in Prison Break, Michael makes Tweener travel solo away from the other members of the escape team since he was known to be a snitch. When Tweener pleads with him and calls him a bro, Michael had something to say about it.
Michael Scofield: You and me? We're not bros.
- In The Hounds of Baskerville, the interaction between Sherlock Holmes and John Waston skirts around this. Sherlock outright states to John that he has no friends, though he later amends that by saying "I don't have friends, I just have one.
- From The Blind Banker, when Sherlock introduces John to an acquaintance of his from university, Sebastian Wilkes:
Sherlock: This is my friend, Dr John Watson.
- That '70s Show examples:
- In "Jackie's Cheese Squeeze" in where Eric tells Jackie not to tell anyone they're friends after their talk about setting things straight with Eric whom Jackie had kissed.
- In "Bring It Home", when Jackie needs a place to stay:
Eric: Donna, you have to let her stay with you. Come on, she's your best friend.
Donna: She's not my best friend.Eric: Well, then who's your best friend?(beat)Donna: Oh crap. How the hell did that happen?
- From the Two and a Half Men episode "An Old Flame With A New Wick":
Alan: Nice guy. Poker buddy?Charlie: Yeah, I used to— And don't call me 'buddy'.
- The pilot episode of The West Wing:
Laurie: Tell your friend P.O.T.U.S. he's got a funny name, and he should learn how to ride a bicycle.Sam Seaborn: I would, but he's not my friend; he's my boss.
- Lead singer of Alice in Chains Layne Staley states in his final interview before his tragic death that he never bothered to call the rest of his AIC members to help him with his drug addiction and states that said members are not his friends.
- The opening statements of "Birdhouse In Your Soul" by They Might Be Giants implies that they are not a friend in a traditional sense, but their job as the protector of its owner is the closest thing to one:
"I'm your only friend; I'm not your only friend, but I'm a little glowing friend, but really I'm not actually your friend, but I am."
- This verse of "Automatic Stop" by The Strokes deal with the a guy and a girl who have ended their romantic relationship and realize that they aren't friends to begin with after knowing each other for a short period of time:
Wait, I'm gonna give it a break.I'm not you friend,I never was.
- Rapper 50 Cent has a quote similar to the one from 48 Hours in both of his songs "Life's On The Line" and "Get In My Car".
"We ain't buddies, we ain't partners, and we damn sure ain't friends."
- Older Than Feudalism: This trope was prophesied in the The Four Gospels. Jesus tells Peter that he will deny Him three times before the rooster crows, but Peter assures Him that he will never do that to Him. However, as Jesus was arrested that night, somebody in the crowd asks Peter whether ha was with Jesus. Trying to avoid getting himself into further trouble, Peter responds with "No! I do not know Him!". As the rooster crows on his third denial, with Jesus looking at him, Peter realizes that he was wrong.
- At the beginning of Wicked, Glinda has to deny her friendship with the recently deceased Elphaba for political reasons.
- The plot of Dear Evan Hansen revolves around an inversion of this trope. After Connor's suicide, the Murphys believe that he and Evan were friends, and Evan is unable to tell them that they're wrong. (Blame the anxiety.) The rest of the show is caused by this event.
- Mao seems to have this kind of attitude in Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice. He would throw a temper-tantrum whenever someone offers kindness or friendship. He also denies having an arraigned Friendly Rivalry with Raspberyl.
- Falco has something to say to the lava birds in Star Fox 64:
Falco: I ain't your buddy! Go away!
- Spider-Man (PS4): Yuri Watanabe, Spider-Man's Friend on the Force, states more than once that she doesn't actually like Spider-Man and they're not friends. As far as she's concerned, Spidey helping her catch criminals that she can't handle is simply "payment" for her not arresting him and throwing him in jail for vigilantism, nothing more and nothing less.
Spider-Man: [Concerning evidence that almost helped to catch Mr. Negative] Hey, we're still best-buds, right?
Yuri: We're not "best-buds."
Spider-Man: [Clearly hurt] Well, that got dark real-quick!
- Jade Curtiss of Tales of the Abyss seem to have this sort of opinion about the other protagonists despite actually learning about The Power of Friendship:
Jade: I don't know about "friends", but we do have an awkward bond of sorts.
- Gladion of Pokémon Sun and Moon goes out of his way on at least two separate occasions to state that he's not friends with your character, even after growing to consider you a Worthy Opponent. Although his exact words are "I know we aren't friends," which makes it sound less like denial on his part and more like acknowledging what he believes to be your stance on the matter.
- Animaniacs: An arrogant business man sitting next to the Warners on a plane declares that "I'd rather be eaten by cannibals than be your 'special friend'!" He soon comes to regret his words. Doubles as a Brick Joke when he escapes the plane to land on a desert island.
- Arthur: Arthur and Molly (one of the Tough Customers bullies) spend time and get along together when Molly's mom makes her let Arthur & DW use their backyard pool. They agree to act like they hate each other when there are other people around.
- The Boondocks has Huey being interviewed about about him teaming with Uncle Ruckus after they decide to leave town and go to Canada due to the election of Barack Obama:
Huey: First of all, we're not a team. Second of all, we're not a team. I've got gas money, he's got the license. We're just gonna drive to Canada and to go on separate ways.
- Family Guy: In one episode Peter and Meg are forced to spend time together and realize that they actually like each other; but they agree that Peter will still act like a jerk to her when they're not alone.
- Happens at least twice in Ice Age, though it isn't a real denial since Manny knows neither Sid nor Diego at this time.
Manny: (to Sid) There is no "we". There never was a "we"! In fact, without me, there wouldn't even be a you!
Diego: Name's Diego, friend.Manny: Manfred. And I'm not your friend.
- When Manny and Sid meet Diego for the first time
- From the episode "Unjustly Neglected Drama" of The Life & Times of Tim, an actor is interrogated by a detective whether or not is he friends with Tim. He denies it. In fact, the denial was a line that was used from a play:
Chipper: He's not my frieeeend. He's not anything to meeeee.
- Monsters, Inc.: When Sully and Mike get banished to the North Pole, Mike sulks and the Yeti points out that Mike is lucky to be banished with his best friend, Mike, due to being angry with Sully, says, "he is not my friend!".
- Fluttershy does this to Discord in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Keep Calm and Flutter On" after he starts causing havoc in Ponyville. This actually pivots his HeelFace Turn as he realizes he actually wants her friendship (being the first he's ever had due to his callous pranks), after which she is perfectly happy to take him in.
- From The Pebble and the Penguin:
Hubie: Hey buddy, looks like we're two birds of a feather.Rocko: Don't call me buddy!Hubie: And, gee, it looks like I got me a friend!
- Rippen of Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero is somewhat fond of his henchman Larry (who is both absurdly loyal and very affectionate) but refuses to admit this to anyone, even himself.
- Puss in Boots: When Humpty Dumpty asks Puss if he wants to be friends with him again (they stopped being friends as teens after going too far with their thieving tendencies and Puss blaming Humpty), Puss replies that he and Humpty are not friends.
- South Park:
- From the episode "Canada On Strike":
Stephen Abootman: Look, guy. We have to stay strong. If you don't stand with your fellow Canadians, then you are a rat!Terrance: Don't call me a rat, buddy.Stephen Abootman: I'm not your buddy, friend.Phillip: He's not your friend, guy.Stephen Abootman: I'm not your guy, buddy.Terrance: He's not your buddy, friend.Stephen Abootman: I'm not your friend, guy.
- In "The Death Of Eric Cartman" the other boys deny Eric as their friend and state that they will start ignoring him from this point on.
Token: Ignoring him? How come?(beat)Token: Oh. Yeah.
- From the episode "Canada On Strike":
- The Simpsons:
- In an episode set on the first day of school, class nerd Martin greets class bully Nelson as an old friend, since they had spent their summer together at space camp; but Nelson tries to downplay their relationship.
- In another episode, the kids of Springfield go to Shelbyville to find their missing lemon tree, and Nelson and Martin are paired up. When Martin gets in trouble, he calls upon Nelson for help:
Martin: No one manhandles the bosom chum of Nelson Muntz. Spring forth, burly protector, and save me!(long pause; the kids look around)Nelson: Aw, jeez. I never hang out with him, normally.
- Subverted in "Treehouse Of Horror XX", when Dracula, the Mummy, Frankenstein's monster and the Wolfman arrive at the Simpsons' house.
Marge: Friends of Homer's?Homer: They're not my friends.Count Dracula: We brought a bottle of booze. Booooze!Homer: Come in, come in.
- Spongebob Squarepants: On occasions, Spongebob just can't take a hint of the fact that Squidward is everything but his friend.
- Lord Hater is the king of this trope—justifiably at first, as he's not Wander's friend, but far less plausibly as Season 2 progresses and he begins doing things like ask for Wander's help to get him a date with his crush. He similarly denies his friendship with Peepers in Season 1 ("Got it, pal? Psych! We're not pals! Hater out!"), despite the fact that they both consider each other friends. Lampshaded by Wander in the Musical Episode.
Wander: I know you try to deny itHater: I do deny it 'cause we're not!Wander: Chase me 'round the galaxy and try to hide it
- It is used to hide some aspects of an individual that aren't mainstream of the social group like hiding that the individual likes X series or that hobby that isn't that well-viewed in society. Reasons vary.
- Real Madrid football player Xabi Alonso admitted that he has no friendship with fellow Real Madrid teammate Cristiano Ronaldo, but on the football field, there is, as he quotes, "appreciation" and "professional respect" for each other.