It was a miracle, really, that they'd managed to maintain a friendship for as long as they had.
After all, the phrase 'opposites attract' has never made mention of how long those unions last, of whatever depth of field they may possess.
And they had come at this place from such very different directions.
On the one hand, the soldier, the lady's man, the warrior who played one role and played it well, with no thought for the need for any more.
On the other hand, the actor, the inventor, the man who slipped in and out of disguises so easily that in some moments he wondered himself who he really was.
They had come from the places you might expect:
West, from the battlefields of the Civil War, where he had served his country and saved a president's life, as he would be called to do again and again.
Gordon, from the mosquito-infested salons of New Orleans. He never talked much about where he'd come from, but there was that in his manner that said he had a past.
His family were eccentrics in a town of eccentrics. In a time when the color of one's skin meant everything, they were known for harboring the unwashed - that is to say, their dining tables were not always set purely for those of lily-white skin.
Perhaps that's why he came to the theater, once he became of an age to make choices about such things. It still mattered, of course, you do not change a world in a moment or simply by wishing it different, but it mattered less here.
Colored, white, man, woman, there was a show to put on and the show must go on.
That was what mattered.
All else... was set aside.
And perhaps this reason was why West and Gordon were able to set their private differences, of which there were many, aside over the years.
Arte came from the theater, where the show went on, no matter the cost.
James came from the battlefield, where the mission went on, no matter the cost.
It didn't matter who your travelling partners were, in either world. As long as you could depend on them to get the job done, it didn't matter a tinker's damn whether you liked them or not.
If you did, you thanked your lucky stars.
If you didn't, you sucked it up and did your job anyway.
So in the end, neither wind nor rain, nor psychopath nor woman scorned (or not so scorned) would truly break their friendship.
Until, of course, the day it did.
When two old warriors were turned out to pasture, their jobs finished, their lives freed once more to follow their own paths, then the cracks began to show, the differences that they had set aside for so many years started to become insurmountable.
Until the day they were called back.
Back into action.
Back to the well-worn paths of duty (and friendship).
For a time, they put aside the paths of the heart to follow the paths of their will.
An old fox will defeat a young dog, after all, if it is a game of skill.
A game of wit against wit goes to the elder.
A game of brawn... well. :> :> :>
There is a reason that soldiering in the field is a game left to the young.
Called together then freed again.
Lives put on hold are loosed.
They find that their differences have become well-worn together over the years.
They are used to the sniping, the competition.
That competition keeps them going.
Keeps them young.