Byakuya's favorite part of the day is watching her wake. Written for the Bleach Romances Fanfiction Contest by Full Shadow Alchemist.

Have you ever had one of those days when the words you were looking for lurk in the dim recesses of your mind and scuttle away when you reach for them? When you have a clear idea of the phenomenon you are trying to portray, but the best description you can produce is, 'It was really dark, and then there were flashes of light.'? If you haven't, I wish you impunity from the experience.

I had something else planned, but I couldn't write yesterday. It was going to be exceptionally angsty, so you can probably count yourself lucky that I used my month's angst-quota in an exceptionally long and whiney letter instead. So now we have something completely different.

Disclaimer: I don't own Bleach.

The gradual brightening of the bedchamber rouses Byakuya from a deep, peaceful sleep. He is warm and content under the numerous soft covers protecting him from the sharply chill air. He is careful not to move, for fear of waking the woman whose body curves so naturally against his and whose pale neck stretches vulnerably in front of his face.

This is his favorite part of the day and he tries to prolong it as much as is possible. He lies still, waiting. He has never been able to sleep through the sunlight's brightness; it calls him from his slumber prematurely every morning. But he will never tell her this, and thus deny her the open pleasure she takes in being able to see the sky while falling asleep.

And why deny himself the pleasure of these precious moments? She stirs slightly, sensing somehow, as she does every morning, that he is awake. He has always woken to full alertness. Not so, she. She drifts reluctantly from her dreams, her gentle protest childlike in its innocence.

Knowing now that she is waking, he moves away slightly and props himself up on one elbow, taking care to avoid trapping the coppery spray of her hair draped across their pillows. In moving, he disrupts her cocoon of blankets. He watches a delicate shudder traverse her back as the air pours across her warm skin, and she attempts to burrow deeper into her blankets.

A small noise of protest escapes her when she is unsuccessful. Giving up on reclaiming her comfort, she slowly rolls towards Byakuya and drapes herself closely against him. Her sooty-grey eyes open slowly and seek his. She smiles.

"Good morning," she mumbles, her voice dusky with sleep.

"Good morning, Hime," he replies, and reaches out to brush a stray lock of hair from her cheek.

Sighing in contentment, she tries one last time to block out the cold, this time by burrowing against his side and tugging the blankets around her. She succeeds only in pulling them off his other side. He bears this, unwilling to end this private moment just yet.

He lowers himself back onto the bed, and runs his hand down the contours of her back, rubbing gently. The quiet floral fragrance of her shampoo mixed with her own scent intoxicates him and he breathes it in deeply before placing a tender kiss on the crown of her head.

He knows that shortly she will pull away from him and rise from their bed. She will wrap a soft gown around herself and conceal her beautiful body for the rest of the day. She will disappear into her bathroom, leaving him to his own grooming.

He knows that when she returns, the languid grace and vulnerability of rousing will be replaced by the earnestness and ditzy clumsiness of one whom sincerely only means well. This unveiled show of indulgence is for his eyes only, and the knowledge pleases him.

Seeking to prolong the moment, he whispers, "How do you know when I am awake?"

Her muffled voice answers from against his torso, "I can feel it. You breathing changes, it tickles the back of my neck."

So he is responsible for her waking as much as she is responsible for his. "I'm sorry."

"Don't be. I like waking up in your arms."

With that, they are silent for a while longer. Eventually, she unwraps herself from him and curves her body away in a stretch.

"Do I have to get up now?" she asks, almost petulantly.

"Unfortunately, yes."

From experience he knows to lean back as she springs all at once into action. The unique sensation of having her head connect with his nose first thing in the morning is not one he cares to repeat. She slides off the bed quickly, flinching as her feet hit the chill floor.

She then tiptoes swiftly over to the closet and pulls out her favorite robe, disrupting the smooth hanging of the clothes in the process. She doesn't realize it, and he won't tell her. She would be distraught to hear how she inconveniences their servants each day. He assumes she thinks they straighten themselves out during the course of the day. That is, if she notices at all.

She doesn't bother with slippers, but continues to tiptoe, hugging her robe tightly to her body, toward the insulating rug in her bathroom. This routine seldom changes; he wouldn't have it any other way. She looks so whimsical, walking on her toes through the room like a thief caught in the morning light. A rare smile curves his lips as he watches her.

She pauses when she reaches the doorway to look back at him, and he wonders at how she knows when he is watching her. She has always been able to sense his gaze and meet it, even across great distances and in spite of whatever is between them.

Now, though, it is just the two of them.

Seeing his amused smile, she tightens her arms across her torso defensively.


"I love you, Orihime," he replies, his usually indifferent voice warm with the emotion he need not hide from her.

Her smile is like the sun in the chill winter morning, but after all their time together, she still responds shyly. "I love you too."

With that, she is gone, and Byakuya prepares himself for the long day he must face before her can once again hold her in his arms.

A/N: I have no idea where this came from; I don't usually write scenes like this. I hope you enjoyed it. If you did, please leave me a review, and, as always, and constructive criticism is appreciated.