I Know What I Saw

Okay, so I think that I'm gonna hit two of our LJ prompts with this one. Cemeterydreamer asked for one related to Daryl's Chupacabra sighting and an actual argument between the pair, so I hope this fulfils your hopes and dreams! So this is for her

If it doesn't satisfy your prompting desires, I hope you enjoy it anyway. It began life as a prompt and in my mind it developed into a multi chapter with a story arc and everything! I'm very proud of myself – this is the first multi-chapter fic I've done for this fandom where there has been a clear story arc right from the beginning so I'm excited to see what I can do with it

Summary: "I know what I saw." Daryl's adamant that he saw a Chupacabra in the forest that day. When Andrea retraces his steps she stumbles across something that in their world at least is even more mythical than the goat sucker. Spoilers for Season 2 so far.

Disclaimer: I own nothing. And my knowledge of the Chupacabra comes from Wikipedia, fount of all knowledge true and false! Apologies for errors or inaccuracies. Also, I can't remember if Andrea's hometown is ever specified, so I took a few liberties with that and mentioned places that she might have lived at one point or another.

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The sweat trickled down Andrea's chest, pooling at the wiring on her bra, sticking the fabric to the swell of her breasts. Her watch read a little after eight am, but she was pretty sure that it had either stopped or was slowly winding down. Either way, it was not yet noon and it was almost unbearably hot out, even by the standards of the oppressive Georgia summers. The weather was cloying, almost suffocating, tugging at the skin on Andrea's neck and the moisture in the back of her throat. It was difficult to catch her breath, almost like she was breathing in a sauna which, she supposed as she felt another concourse of sweat work its way through her ponytail, she was. Sighing to herself, she reached for her bottle of water and took a long swig before shifting Glen's borrowed backpack so that it was more comfortable on her back, and began the slow, steady trek through the forest, the cliff that had almost claimed Daryl's life looming on her left hand side, leading to rocks and water below.

She didn't know what she was doing out here, not really. It wasn't like they had anything to search for any more, and after her and Shane's discovery at the subdivision, it probably wasn't a good idea to go wandering off alone into the forest. She didn't even know what she was looking for, if she was looking for anything. She just wanted some time alone to think. She couldn't remember the last time she had had a moment of singular introspection or just private thought without someone listening in, or sticking their nose in, or offering unsolicited advice about her life. When she had lived in Florida and had the opportunity, she had often taken a drive out into the countryside to walk off whatever was bothering her. Like Georgia, Florida was hot and humid but it was a welcome respite from the smog and urban tension of Jacksonville and Miami. And now, heat and walkers aside, the Georgia forest really was beautiful. That aside, it was probably a stroke of utter stupidity on her part to come repeat Daryl's trek out here when only a few days' earlier the hunter had almost been killed by both nature and walker while he was searching for Sophia.

A hard fist of sadness clenched around Andrea's heart when she thought about Sophia. As awful as the poor girl's undeath had been, it was the Pandora's Box of shit that her disappearance had unleashed which seemed to be slowly paralysing their group from the inside, paralysing their minds in a thick fog of despondency and grief. Herschel hadn't left the farmhouse and Carol hadn't yet left the RV. Lori and Rick watched Carl with a hawk eye, afraid to let him out of their grasp, never mind their sight. Daryl had retreated into stony silence, using nothing but a scowl and harsh tongue to keep the rest of their peculiar family at bay. Shane spent most of his time on the highway, pillaging the dead for supplies. Glenn spent most of his time with Maggie, and Andrea really couldn't blame him. They could be leaving at any day; it made sense to spend time with the ones you cared about while you still could.

If Andrea had her time again there were so many things she would have said to the people she loved, not just her parents and Amy but her friends too, men and women who Andrea had known almost as long as she had been alive. She would tell her mom and dad that she loved them and had been privileged to call herself their daughter. She would tell Amy that she had only half-meant the relentless teasing of their earlier years. She would tell Jim Brockhurst from Accounts that she had always hoped he would ask her out after what in her opinion had been a spectacular first date. She would tell people things both meaningful and meaningless, would tear down her social filter and let the words roll freely and carelessly off her tongue. She would have been more honest in her relationships, more forthright. She would not have allowed something as finite as time and civilisation to get in the way of things that needed to be said and should be said. I love you. I miss you. You were a great mom and dad. I could have been a better sister.

No, Andrea did not blame Glenn one bit. She could empathise with them all. People dealt with grief in different ways. She just didn't want to be around them while they did it, not right now, anyway. She just wanted a couple of hours of peace and quiet. And exercise. It had been so long since Andrea's heart hand pounded with something that wasn't fear that she had almost forgotten what it felt like. So she had packed a bag, left a note indicating her route for Rick, like he was her dad and she was a teenager sneaking out after curfew, and headed out.

The walk was harder than Daryl had indicated and harder than she had expected it to be. She was no tracker or hiker like Daryl and even her sturdiest shoes struggled to cope with the terrain, but she struggled on, promising herself that once she reached the top of the hill, where she would be able to see the whole valley, the farmhouse and the river, she would eat her jerky, drink her water and head back. The trail was rough and uneven, the ground soft and dry beneath her feet. There was very little traction, the thick bed of discarded leaves, twigs and dry forest sediment hiding a multitude of potholes, snakes and other dangers. It was easy to see how Daryl had wound up in the predicament that he had. Self-proclaimed outdoor expert or not, he was only a man, after all, a fact that had been all too evident when she visited him just that morning to bid him goodbye before she set off on her hike. She had never seen him asleep before yet when she stuck her head through his tent flap she had been startled by just how vulnerable he had appeared to her, even with the crossbow clutched against his chest. His skin had looked soft and pliable in the early morning light, the regular rise and fall of his chest indicating that despite his larger than life presence and seeming indestructibility, he was a man, a flesh and blood man fully capable of being hurt, killed or worse. For the first time since their initial meeting all that time ago, he looked breakable to her.

Her foot slipped from under her then and she yelped as she did a short, sharp slide several feet down the ravine, a cloud of dirt, leaves and twigs followed her. As her t-shirt rode up, her jeans rode down and she felt something sharp scrape her back and the backs of her calves. Her hands flailed out around her, eventually grabbing a thick vine that might have begun life as a tree root. It was rough and covered with thick green lichen which scraped at her hands, but its traction was enough to slow her uncontrolled fall down the ravine. Below her she could hear the sounds of the river crashing onto the rocks and brook below and muttered several words of thanks to whoever was watching over her. She gave the root an experimental tug, praying that it would support her weight while she climbed back up to the original trail.

"Come on, Andrea." She muttered under her breath. "You wanted exercise. You can do this."

It took only moments to reach the top but by the time she did Andrea was panting, her clothes were wet with sweat and she had dirt and leaves in places that no woman ever wanted dirt and leaves. When her slick hands reached the dry trail, she let her body half-slump over the edge and breathed a sigh of relief.

Until the familiar sounds of a walker brought a rush of fear and adrenaline through her system.

"Shit." She muttered, half scrabbling backwards as she fumbled at her waistband for her pistol and cursing when she came away empty. She must have dropped it when she fell and she didn't have the time to look for it. Her hands gripped the rubber handle on the knife she'd palmed from the set that Carl had stolen from the highway graveyard. She could barely bone a chicken, never mind take out a walker, but in the absence of her pistol she had no choice. The knife was sharp enough though, and light in her hand. It would do the job.

She smelled the walker several moments before she saw it. This summer had felt never-ending, and while it was slowly stretching its way into fall, the smell of decaying, rotting flesh took on an overpowering, almost hallucinogenic quality, and Andrea fought the urge to gag as the smell preceded the undead that were sure to follow.

Tears prickled her eyes when she saw the pitiful figure emerge from the forest undergrowth some twenty feet ahead of her. The figure had begun life as a girl, but Andrea could only recognise its gender because the girl was wearing what had probably been a very pretty sundress in vibrant, sunny orange and yellow. Her sandals had Velcro straps on them because she hadn't quite reached the age where buckles and laces posed no problem. Her legs were streaked in dirt and mud and blood, her right shoulder a torn mass of decaying tendons and rivulets of flesh. Her hair could have begun life as either blonde or brown, but it was now impossible to see through the matted clumps of leaves and blood and other unspeakable that wound through her hair like a beehive. Her eyes were rheumy and milky white and they stared at Andrea with single-minded intensity as the young girl moved towards Andrea with far more speed than she should have, her hands held up as she reached for the live flesh before her. Judging by her sunken cheeks and skeletal arms, Andrea guessed that she hadn't eaten for a while. She tightened her grip on the knife. She'd need to sidestep the girl and shove her knife into the back of her head. It shouldn't be hard; the girl had to weight no more than sixty pounds and was less than four feet tall. It would be quick, clean, precise and would take less than thirty seconds.

It wasn't quite as precise as Andrea would have liked and it wasn't as quick as it should have been, but several moments later Andrea was wiping the girl's blood off her blade and searching for her pistol.

Two more walkers came out of the woods. Both had been big men in life and that had not changed with death. They stopped short when they saw her, evidently surprised that live meat was so close and staring at them with wide blue-green eyes. Their mouths opened and they half-snorted, half-grunted, half-growled at Andrea before moving towards her, gaining speed and momentum with every step they took, their decaying legs carrying them forwards with a speed and agility that was terrifying. Andrea scrambled backwards, her hands reaching for the root that had been her saviour just a few moments ago. Without her pistol she stood no chance of killing them both, but if she could get down the side of the ravine, she might be able to outrun them or force them over the edge and onto the rocks and water below.

She was closer to the edge than she had initially realised and went over backwards and head-first, sliding and slipping downhill on her back as she watched her two pursuers blindly follow her down the hill, their minds and their feet not able to compensate for the steep descent or the poor traction. One soon toppled over and fell head-over-feet, head-over-feet down the ravine, thrashing and clawing at Andrea as he passed her.

Frighteningly, the other one displayed enough intelligence to at least slow down before he followed Andrea, who by that point had managed to hoist herself into a high tree, far out of reach of undead hands and snapping teeth. He descended with intelligent wariness, his nose and eyes scanning as he searched for his prey. When he looked up and saw her nestled amid the dense foliage, he opened his mouth and let rip an inhuman growl, his hands reaching for the low-hanging branches as he tried to haul himself into a tree. Above him, Andrea gripped her knife and prayed that her luck held out longer than her water bottle and the jerky in her backpack.

She did not need to wait long. The zombie jerked forwards with unnatural force, his head slamming against the trunk with such power that it made the entire tree shake and moan. Then he slid down against the trunk, his mouth and head wound oozing thick black blood against the green-brown bark. When Andrea saw the crossbow bolt firmly wedged in the back of its head, she fought the urge to weep with relief.

"You gonna quit your Tarzan routine and get your ass down here?" Daryl Dixon's familiar twang cut through the now-silent forest.

"Just a minute." Andrea said as she warily descended from her refuge. She couldn't see him but knew that he had to be close by. "I need to find my gun."

"Got it right here. And don't forget to grab the bolt. Only got two left."

She saw his boots first; thick workman's boots that looked like the most comfortable things on the planet. Her eyes travelled up his body; the all-purpose workman's pants, the pale blue shirt with the sleeves torn out. His crossbow was now slung across his back and he was breathing heavily, as though the wind had been knocked out of him. He was as the top of the hill, and watched her ascent with careful scrutiny. Only once she was virtually over the top did he offer his assistant, grabbing the back of the waist band of her jeans and hauling her over the edge. As usual, his face was dirtied by grime and sweat and his blue eyes were narrowed in scrutiny. She moved awkwardly, knocking them both off balance and they landed in a tangle of legs, weapons and backpacks, both of them panting for breath.

"You wanna tell me just what the hell you think you're doin' all the way out here?" He asked flatly as he held out his hand for his crossbow bolt.

TBC ...