Rose had been twelve when she first noticed she was being watched. It had been an odd, creeping feeling between her shoulder blades that had persisted in her youth, and she'd always attributed it to the intuitive sense her Mum said children possessed. Most often she told herself it was her Dad, or rather his spirit, watching and following her whenever and wherever he could.
But one day, when she was twelve, she'd had her first glimpse of a man. A man too young to be her Dad and too old to be from school, wearing a long coat.
Rose had turned about on her skates and moved as fast to him as she was able, but he was gone as though by magic. It was something that had haunted her as long as she could remember.
Years passed without another sighting, but the curious feeling of being watched never left. Rose grew up, turned sixteen, seventeen and then eighteen, coming to the end of her last school year. The last dance of the year was always the best, and she'd bought the dress she'd eyed for months in the shop. Mum had made noises about the price but it had been Jackie Tyler who fixed her daughter's hair, kissed her cheek, and fastened her own earrings on Rose's earlobes before wishing her a good night and a good time.
Mickey had been laughing across the room when Rose felt the presence behind her again, and she whirled sharply. He was there, though without the long coat and wearing a suit in its place. Sharp black and white, the sort of thing from fairytales and dreams locked away in past years.
He'd come to her then as the band struck a melody she'd heard before, and before Rose had a moment to speak a protest he was grinning, lifting a finger to his lips to prompt her silence and extending a hand in offering for a dance.
Her fingers were small in his, and he'd pulled her near to sway to the rhythm of the music. Other girls chose to dance with their heads nestled against the shoulders of their dates, but Rose wanted to look into his eyes. She wanted to know, to be sure.
"Are you..?" She didn't know where to start, didn't know what question to ask or how to ask it. His smile stayed the same, even and charming, and Rose could feel Mickey's inquiring eyes on her back but didn't turn to acknowledge them. That could wait, as could explanations.
"Am I?" he prompted her, his smile deepening in a way that made her laugh. It wasn't an amused laugh, but a breathless sort of gasp that ended in her shaking her head. "Am I a ghost? A dream, a conman? Some frightening man trying to take advantage of a young girl?" He twirled her away from him then, resulting in her startled gasp and a little exhale as he pulled her against him again.
"I could be one, none, or all of the above," he said, and his lips were at her ear when he spoke now, something that sent a shiver up Rose's spine. His heart was pounding faster than it had been, but she didn't understand why.
"You're not going to tell me which?" she asked weakly, not sure if she wanted to know the answer.
"No," he said definitively, "because it won't matter. You won't remember my face after tonight. I don't want you to. Don't think of me as a person or a name, think of me as a man. Just a man that wanted more than one dance with you."
"But it's the last dance of the night, all you can have is one," Rose said in bewilderment. He laughed again, shaking his head against the crown of her hair.
"It's not the last dance, Rose Tyler. When it's the last dance, you'll know."