Two characters have sex. Upon waking the next morning, the woman reaches out for her man. The camera follows her hand to the empty pillow; he has flown in the night.
Usually a man does the loving and leaving, but women do it too. The scene is a sad one, the root of the sadness perhaps being the broken link between sex and love/commitment. The broken link is highlighted by the furtive, even guilty, departure.
A common subversion is to have the missing lover show up seconds later with coffee or breakfast for two.
On occasion the desertion will be shown; time for moonlit regret, lingering last looks of her sleeping face.
Sometimes the man is leaving on a mission. Added pathos points if the man is going to his death. In this case, he will often have left something (or someone) behind.
Contrast with Bedmate Reveal.
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Anime and Manga
Implied to happen between Millie and Wolfwood in the Trigun Anime. Wolfwood leaves the morning after.
Arashi and Sorata from X1999, with the woman leaving. Depending on which version of events you follow, this either leads to Death by Sex for either or both of them.
Happens twice in Tsukihime: after having sex with Shiki, Arcueid leaves to fight Roa alone to not endanger Shiki; similarly, Kohaku drugs him and leaves to confront Akiha on her own. The former scene also makes it to the anime adaptation note here the sex is implied though embracing and nakedness rather than being overt.
Zero no Tsukaima doesn't have sex, but the main couple do get married. Then Saito drugs Louise so he can face the 70,000 strong Magic Knight army and she doesn't.
In FAKE, after Dee and Ryo have sex for the first time, Ryo leaves while Dee is sleeping, leaving a note behind on his pillow. Dee makes a cursory complaint about it being unromantic, but he's too thrilled at having finally made some progress in their relationship to actually be upset about it, and unlike most examples it doesn't signify anything resembling a breakup.
In Lotte No Omocha, Queen Mercelida does this to young Naoya. They don't meet again until three years later, when she presents him with their daughter.
Subverted in thisHarry Potter fanfic. When Draco tells Harry that he should go home, Harry asks him to stay but then falls asleep before Draco can reply. So when Harry wakes up to an empty bed, he naturally assumes that Draco left anyway. That is, until he finds a few of Draco's things, as well as his trousers, on the bedroom floor. Turns out Draco is having a cup of tea in the kitchen, wearing nothing but one of Harry's shirts.
Subverted in Things We Don't Tell Humans. Wheeljack wasn't supposed to stay for breakfast, but he does, much to everyone's brief embarrassment when Prowl finds him asleep on the couch with Ratchet.
In the film Heat, Neil Mc Cauley is shown leaving Eady in the night, after making love. Neil is a professional thief, and has vowed to have no attachments as to be able to walk out of his life in thirty seconds if the heat turns up. note A sad detail is the glass of water he leaves for Eady, wrapped in a carefully folded napkin.
And then subverted when he gets back together with her a day or two later.
In the film version of Stardust, Tristan leaves Yvaine after they make love. He fully intends to come back that same day, leaving only to disillusion his former not-so-true love in swashbuckling-hero fashion, but upon waking up alone Yvaine mistakenly believes he has abandoned her (thanks to Poor Communication Kills, Tristan asked a hotel employee to tell Yvaine where he went, but the man bungled the message).
Conan the Barbarian loves and leaves Valeria in the movie, in order to head to the Mountain of Power and infiltrate Thulsa Doom's cult to take vengeance for his people. He gets his ass kicked by the cultists when Doom uncovers him.
The Saint had Simon romance Emma so he could steal her formula and then left her next morning with a bunch of notes saying "I'm sorry" because he'd genuinely formed an emotional response to her. Emma, however, subverted the trope because she wanted her cards back and went after him.
Professor Harold Hill loves and leaves in The Music Man. At least until he finally gets his "foot stuck in the door" with Marian.
Subverted in Mr. and Mrs. Smith. The morning after meeting each other, Jane wakes up and doesn't find her partner in bed. John promptly enters the room carrying breakfast.
Both subverted and played straight in Hitch. Sara wakes up, sees the other side of the bed empty, starts getting emotional about it... and Hitch walks in with breakfast. Earlier, though, her friend slept with sleazy Vance, who played it straight.
Casey: "I've never seen a man get dressed so fast!"
In American Pie, Jim and Michelle sleep together at the after-prom party. Jim wakes up alone. He realized he was used. After a moment's reflection he's psyched about it.
Done in Out of Sight. Subverted in that she completely expected it—after all, he's a fugitive bank robber, while she's the US Marshal trying catch him. Amusingly, as a memento, instead of a rose, Jack has left Karen's gun on her pillow (he stole it from her earlier).
Subverted in Single White Female. The female protagonist reaches out for her boyfriend. She wakes up in a panic upon not finding him — only to find him sleeping right there. They only recently reconciled following his infidelity, and it's implied that she was having a nightmare in which he did leave, hence her panicky reaction.
In Iron Man 1, Christine Everheart had sex with Tony and woke up to find Tony gone and Pepper kicking her out of the mansion with clean clothes, a waiting cab and a snide remark.
Iron Man 3: Tony does this to Dr. Maya Hansen in the opening prologue taking place before the first movie. It bites him in the butt years later when she returns with a vengeance.
Colonel Hal Moore has to leave in the middle of the night to deploy with his men to Vietnam in We Were Soldiers. Julia wakes up in the middle of the night, but only after he has gone.
With the subversion that he hasn't left because he doesn't love her, but because he knows that her watching him leave to go into combat will be very painful for her. He also doesn't look back, and doesn't give her a thought until he finally returns home from his deployment.
Cabin Fever: Paul and Marcy go from being platonic friends to casual lovers in a matter of minutes. As soon as the deed is done, Paul is almost as fast to rinse Marcy's love juices off his wang with listerine and tell her curtly that he's gonna run off into the forest to look for Marcy's boyfriend Jeff, because "[He] just can't stay there any longer [with her]". Despite Marcy's anxious protests, Paul leaves her all alone in the Cabin. Of course, he left with a parting gift from Marcy: the flesh-eating disease she passed to him because they didn't use a condom.
In the Stanley Kubrick adaptation of Lolita, our first indication that Humbert has accepted Charlotte Haze's marriage proposal is her reaching over to his side of the bed and finding him not there. He's actually reading in the study, and promptly goes and locks himself in the toilet when he realises she's awake. This is done as a sign that their marriage is a sham as Humbert's sexual interests lie elsewhere.
Rand and Elayne in The Wheel of Time, with Rand leaving (for the perfectly understandable reason that he still has to go out and save the world). He leaves behind a flower as an apology/expression of love (which she accepts). He also leaves her pregnant, but he doesn't actually know that yet.
Standard etiquette among the nobility of the Heian Era (794-1185AD in Japan). It was much more embarrassing if your lover stuck around, forcing you to explain or hide his presence from your awakening and inevitably curious ladies-in-waiting. In fact, the great Heian lady poet and ancient blogger, Sei Shonagon, even wrote an entry in The Pillow Book detailing the ideal technique for a young man slipping graciously away in the morning.
There are still remnants of this in modern Japanese language, where the wedding banquet is called "coming-out-of-the-closet banquet," i.e. a departure of this stage into a more regular, ritualized relationship.
Subverted in First Drop of Crimson. Denise wakes up the morning after to find the other half of the bed empty with smooth sheets, and the bathroom empty. At first she panics: Maybe he regrets it. Maybe he left me, before she calms down and thinks Maybe he doesn't rumple the sheets when he sleeps, and maybe he just went downstairs. She's right, of course; Spade spent the night in her arms, and left just before she woke to answer the door.
In Gone with the Wind, Scarlett wakes up alone the morning after Rhett forces himself on her, "and had it not been for the rumpled pillow beside her, she would have thought the happenings of the night before a wild preposterous dream. She went crimson at the memory. . ." Despite Scarlett's numerous Kick the Dog moments, this is an instant where Rhett is the one to sabotage the relationship—for once, Scarlett is willing to reach out to him and try to reconcile, but his disappearance makes her reconsider.
Live Action TV
Buffy the Vampire Slayer Angel leaves Buffy the morning after — because he turned evil. This happens to Buffy again in season 4, and she does this to Spike (although they didn't have sex that time. They literally just slept together.) in the last season. In Season 4, we have the "went to get coffee" version where the lover is just out of the room. However, it is played for drama as it is a direct reminder of Buffy's previous (and only) time. When she sees the coffee, she's greatly relieved, which makes the following reveal - that the guy was really just in it for sex - much more cruel. Additionally, the fact that Riley doesn't leave is taken by Buffy to be immensely positive.
After taking Xander's virginity Faith spears him out the door. Turns out she did the same to Wood and basically any guy she's been with. Wood however comments on this, and Faith begins to change her ways.
Jim Henson's The Storyteller retelling of "Theseus and the Minotaur": Theseus loves and leaves Ariadne as in the myth. When she wakes up a Woman Scorned, she calls down a curse on his head in true Ancient Greek fashion. The curse cause him to forget to put up the right color sail to tell his father he survived — and thus, as she curses him, he witnesses his father leap from a cliff.
In the Babylon 5 episode Divided Loyalties, Talia (in Ivanova's quarters) wakes up and is surprised to find the other half of the bed empty. The next scene is an attack on Lyta Alexander, who has arrived at the station to deliver a warning about a Psi Corps sleeper agent. This turns out to be a bit of misdirection; after an episode with many clues pointing to Ivanova, the sleeper agent turned out to be Talia. The scene also serves as a deniable indication of the characters' possible relationship. Word of God has since confirmed that they'd slept together in more than the strictly literal sense.
On another occasion, Ivanova invokes the trope in her "sex" scene with the Lumati ambassador:
Ambassador: What happens now? Ivanova: Old style, you roll over and go to bed. New style, you go out for pizza and I never see you again.
Humorously done in Coupling with Patrick's behavior as The Casanova. He has it as engrained behavior to leave immediately after sex and instictively make a telephone sign should his lover be awake as he is leaving. This understandably creates problems when Sally tries to start a long-term relationship with him.
Reversed in series one of Torchwood, with Owen standing in for the woman in every port, and Diane for the flyboy who leaves before it can get too serious.
On How I Met Your Mother, Barney's standard post-coitus procedure is to sneak away while the woman is in the shower. When he eventually winds up in a committed relationship, he still often ends up sleep-walking out of his girlfriend's apartment.
Barney's also set up his apartment to invoke this from the women he invites over. Although when the setup starts to go wrong, he uses Lily as a fake wife for a while to scare them away.
Used cruelly in the season 5 finale of House — she was gone in the morning because she was never there.
One episode of The Closer had the victim who did this for a reality TV show. He'd pick up drunk women for a night and leave before they woke up. Then find them again and show them the video of the said night and film their reaction. He did this eight times, which led up the the line: "He did this eight times and was only shot once?"
Midge on Mad Men: "You know the rules. I don't make promises, and I don't make breakfast."
Subverted on ER when Carol wakes up and finds Doug gone. He walks into the room a second later with breakfast and teases her about her thinking that he had left, although given his previous behavior (he did this frequently the first time they dated) he can hardly blame her.
Used on Raising Hope. The morning after Jimmy and Lucy have sex, Jimmy wakes up to find his van empty. He then goes into the house to find Lucy in the kitchen, talking to his family.
Played with in different ways in Sex and the City. Features everything from really making them breakfast, to finding a break-up post-it note the morning after, to the girls themselves fleeing the beds of various guys right after for different reasons.
Subverted in Six Feet Under. Nate gets together with a woman from his daughter's creche. Having recently lost his wife and in need of emotional support, he stays, only for her to snub him and tell that she hoped he would have left because she was just after some quick shag.
Brennan in Bones made it her policy never to stay at her lover's place overnight or to let her lover stay with her overnight after having sex, as she didn't believe in romantic entanglements. This changed obviously when she and Booth finally became an Official Couple.
Subverted in the Season 5 premiere of Castle; Castle wakes up alone in his bed. Enter Beckett, wearing his shirt, a cup of coffee in each hand, ready for round two(or technically, round four).
"Angel of the Morning" was a hit song in 1968 for Merrilee Rush and the Turnabouts. Its importance can be gauged by the 29 cover versions listed on The Other Wiki, from 1968 to 2007. It describes the feelings of a woman who expects her lover to Not Stay For Breakfast. She has an adult acceptance of the one-night-stand she is seeking, but is conflicted; perhaps longing for something more.
This is the subject of the Blackhawk song Will You Be There (In The Morning?).
Melody Gardot's Live From Soho EP of her song "Goodnite."
This is also the subject of The Shirelles' hit "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?"
Bob Seger's Fire Inside has the protagonist pretend to be asleep while listening to and allowing their (male) lover to sneak away after a one-night stand.
Matt Monro's Softly As I Leave You
Trisha Yearwood's Walkaway Joe: Somewhere in a roadside motel room/ Alone in the silence she wakes up too soon/ And reaches for his arm/ But she'll just keep reachin' on...
Universe, by Savage Garden: Cuddle up close/ Lay on my chest now/ Listen my heart beat's coming down/ If you get tired you close your eyes now/ When you wake up I won't be found.
"A Simple Twist of Fate" by Bob Dylan: He woke up, the room was bare/He didn't see her anywhere/Told himself he didn't care, pushed the window open wide/Felt that emptiness inside/To which he just could not relate/Brought on by a simple twist of fate.
Brazilian band Skank had the song "Formato Mínimo", which ends with the man leaving before she wakes up... but somehow feeling guilty.
"Last Dance With Mary Jane" by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers has the narrator as a "love 'em and leave 'em" type (though he's honest about it) who realizes the emptiness of this type of lifestyle when the titular Mary Jane does the same thing to him ("It was too cold to cry when I woke up alone/I hit my last number and walked to the road").
"Drive By" by Train has this as the cause of the breakup the singer is trying to undo; he claims he left due to panic that he was feeling more emotions than expected and wasn't sure how to deal with them. This is also shown in the video.
"Daylight" by Maroon 5. "When the daylight comes, I have to go / But tonight I'm gonna hold you so close."
Chris tries to do this to Kim in Miss Saigon, but finds himself too enamored of her to leave. Plus, she wakes up shortly after he returns to her room.
If you decide to go through with the Optional Sexual Encounter between Ethan and Madison in Heavy Rain, the next scene will consist of you controlling Ethan as he tries to pull this maneuver off, that is, of course, until he comes across Madison's wallet and finds out she is a journalist.
Quagmire from Family Guy repeatedly follows this trope, when he isn't just saying "Hey, are you still here?". Unlike most of these examples, Quagmire's just being his Jerkass self.
In American Dad!!, episode Stan of Arabia, Hayley the liberal moves to Saudi Arabia and jumps into bed with a member of Al-Qaeda. She wakes up and says, "Hmm, now I know how a kebab feels." She rolls over and finds him gone, in his place is a note explaining that he's gone away to bomb the American embassy. When she arrives at the embassy, she finds him working a fast food kiosk nearby. Two American girls walk up and explain, "He tricked you into thinking he was a terrorist so you'd have sex with him. He does that with all the American girls."