AN: So this is a sequel to "Phantom Hearts," but I'm also going to try to write most of it so it can stand alone if you haven't read the first story. I'm about to put a bunch of information here about the story and the characters, but if you don't want to read it, skip on ahead to the chapter.

I do not own the Walking Dead or its characters. I don't make any money off of this, it's just for fun. The only thing I own are some OCs, some perhaps original plot lines (perhaps not), and a great love for the show…etc…etc…etc…

The image from the cover came from Google. It's not mine either.

So this is one that I'll update from time to time. Truth is that some of it has just been hanging out on my desktop because I hadn't decided to load it. I'm not going to promise that it's going to be updated with any real regularity, but since parts of it have been plaguing me to write them, I figured I'd share it with you as it does get written simply so it will leave me alone.

This one picks up a few days after "Phantom Hearts" leaves off, but the story will pretty much be an individual story, I think. That means that characters will be a little different, the tone will be a little different, etc. I'm just warning you of that.

If you read it and you like it, please review. Reviews always feed my desire to keep writing even when I'm tired and don't feel like writing. If you don't review, though, I still appreciate your reading it!

Chapters may be shorter sometimes and longer others, it just depends. If you know my writing style then you know they're always somewhat "episodic."

I hope you enjoy! Let me know what you think!

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Whether or not there were even many people left in the world remained to be seen. As far as anyone knew there were only a handful left…maybe a few more out there that they hadn't encountered yet…but really there was no confirmation for any of it and it really didn't matter all that much. For all they really knew, there was no one left but their little group…their family…their tribe even. The Governor's men…the crazy people that they had encountered along the way…they could indicate the presence of others, or they may have been the last of their kind. There was no way of knowing, and as long as they didn't come calling at the prison gates, there was little need to worry too much.

What was surely a fact, though, was that if you asked most of the people in their family, or you asked anyone else that might be alive out there somewhere about what life had been like years ago versus what it was like now, they'd have likely told you that somewhere…years ago…the world had come to a crashing halt. Everything had ended and everything had gone to shit.

The dead had taken up one day, gotten to their feet, and had become determined to destroy civilization. Life as they'd all known it had gone crashing down around their feet and all the things that had been important, especially all of the material things, had simply ceased to be quite so important.

And now life was about survival. And by most standards it was a hard life, and a cruel life. It was probably best viewed as a terrible existence that they all had now. There was simply nothing left except the few survivors in a world that they had to learn to navigate in an entirely different way than before if they wanted any chance at all of even living to see the next day.

Yes, if you asked almost anyone you'd probably hear all about how the world had gone to hell and everything that was great and was wonderful before, was all reduced to a steaming pile of shit.

Daryl Dixon knew that's what everyone most likely thought about it all. Sure, their opinions varied slightly depending on the person, but for the most part everyone saw the then versus the now as some kind of shift that had undeniably moved from better to worse.

Except Daryl Dixon didn't see it that way. Once upon a time, perhaps, that might have been his perspective. He thought he could vaguely remember, just as they'd been expecting the world to go up in a blazing inferno, that he had been sure that it was all over and that the best was behind them. He thought he could remember thinking that maybe the best thing that could happen to them all was calling it quits and giving up…after all, what were they fighting for anyway? It was all gone.

Of course, that would also have been a version of him that would have thought anyone a fool that told him that the dead would start walking, the world would go to shit, and he would find himself absolutely the happiest he'd ever been. He'd have called them crazy if he'd heard them say that he'd reach the damn end of the world and for the first time in his life he'd feel completely overwhelmed…not only by how much he loved…but by how much he was loved.

Daryl remembered reading the fucking story of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" when he was a kid and he'd thought it was kind of a stupid story. He remembered parts of it, though he didn't boast to remember the children's book in its entirety, but the most ridiculous part…the part that stuck with him the most through all the years…was that he remembered when the book said something about the Grinch's heart growing on Christmas. He even remember the stupid line, or at least the gist of it. "The Grinch's heart grew three sizes that day." He'd read it and he'd always thought it was the dumbest thing in the world to think that something so small as a Christmas gift or a tree…or a party…or whatever the fuck it had been that had melted the Grinch's ice heart, would be something that could change someone, or in the Grinch's case something, so damn much. And he certainly hadn't believed that it could happen so quickly…just in the span of a day the Grinch's whole mentality…everything he'd ever thought or felt in his damn Grinchy ice cave could just be turned right upside down.

But that's how the hell he felt like it had happened to him.

He sat now, his back resting against the dirty wall of a prison cell, his body on a makeshift bed formed out of two prison cots rustically wired together, his legs spread out in front of him, crossed at the ankle. And nestled in the crack between his thighs, twitching in his sleep every now and again was Daryl's son.

And in just the few days since the little thing had come to know the world…this world gone to shit which was the only world he'd ever know…Daryl felt like his heart was like the damn Grinch's heart. If it could grow without it bursting clean open in his chest, that's what had happened.

And the little fucker probably didn't weigh eight damn pounds if he weighed an ounce. He wasn't as big as most Christmas gifts…he wasn't as big as a Christmas tree…and there had been no party for him the day he'd come into the world, howling to beat the band…but he had done something to Daryl that he was positive could never be undone.

Beside him, on the other side of the rustically constructed bed, lie Carol. His wife. Daryl Dixon, was a married man, and though he couldn't say that it had never come at the cost of a disagreement or two…though he couldn't say that it had been the easiest damn thing he'd done so far to get where he was…he was pretty sure he was the happiest married man alive…and he wasn't even beginning to contribute that to the fact that he wasn't sure if he wasn't one of only two married men still left alive.

Everyone would have said that the world had gone to shit, but for Daryl it had become a place that was full of everything he'd never thought he'd have. He couldn't even miss the so called creature comforts that so many might have stacked their happiness on because not a single one of them mattered to him in comparison to what he had right now. If he'd been made king of the world it wouldn't have made him even one bit happier than he was at this moment with his son sleeping in his lap and his wife sleeping by his side.

"Why is his blanket off?" Daryl heard Carol say beside him, her voice heavy with the sleep she was rising out of.

Carol kept the baby wrapped up, and it was probably because it was cold as a witch's tit in most of the damn prison, but she'd drug one of the electric heaters that ran off a generator into their cell and their space was like living in a damn Dutch oven.

And Daryl's son, Cayden, was like his old man. He was hot natured. Daryl knew it because in the room, all wrapped up like a burrito or something, his son would get covered in a sheen of sweat and he'd start to change color. He slept better with the blanket open, like it was now, or even in other parts of the prison. But Carol was terrified he would get cold and he would get sick, so Daryl only opened the blanket and gave Cayden as much as air as he thought he needed when she wasn't looking.

"Better go back ta sleep," Daryl said. "Ain't gon' be too damn long he's gonna start that squeakin' shit an' ya gon' have ta get'cha ass up 'fore he starts howlin' ta beat the band."

"Is he cold?" Carol asked, leaning up a little. Daryl reached over and put his hand on her shoulder.

"Don't'cha see he's sleepin'?" Daryl asked. "He's just fine, woman. So damn hot in here a snowman couldn't be cold."

Daryl turned the heater off at night a good bit. He turned it off, honestly, almost every damn chance he got. He was like Cayden in that he too slept better when he was at least a little bit cool. Carol did too, but she wouldn't admit it. Right now she was soaked clean through with sweat, but she'd have stayed in a room that was hot enough to spontaneously combust if she thought it was good for the baby.

Finally, though, Carol gave in and rested her head again. Daryl reached over and ran his fingers through her hair, noticing it was wet and the short curls there were soaked through with sweat.

Daryl determined that the heater had to be turned off. He hated to move for the risk of waking his son, but he decided it had to be done. He carefully slid his hands up under the baby, hearing in his head every single time that Carol told him to support his head, and he carefully picked the baby up and brought him to the crook of his arm.

Cayden wiggled at first, like he was considering waking up, and then he closed his little mouth and turned his head, snuggling down into the crook of Daryl's arm and deciding that changing his location wasn't really worth abandoning his nap.

Daryl eased off the bed and turned the heater off.

"I'm hot as hell…how 'bout you?" Daryl whispered to the baby. He reached over and took the blanket that he'd freed his son from and threw it over his shoulder. If he was venturing out of the cell then he ran the risk of running into someone and he ran the risk of hearing some kind of lecture about not having the kid wrapped up. Sometimes he felt like people acted like walking around without a blanket on the baby was the equivalent of leaving the kid out in the snow. At least if he had the blanket with him he could save himself the trip back to the cell to remedy their bitching.

Daryl stepped out of the cell and walked along, up and down the corridor in front of the cells. Most everyone was busy with something, or they were hiding in their cells, Daryl wasn't sure which. He paced for a good few minutes without seeing or hearing any evidence of another living soul until he almost ran smack into Rick coming out of his cell.

"Out for a walk?" Rick asked quietly.

"Yeah," Daryl responded, keeping his own voice low as well. "Where the hell is everyone?"

He'd gone into his cell to keep Cayden company while Carol took a nap. She'd insisted on being on her feet and trying to help with the cooking, laundry, and other chores since the day after the kid was born, but Daryl managed to run her into cell at least once a day for a nap while Cayden was catching up on a little sleep. It wasn't like they were exactly getting full nights of sleep, so he figured both of them better snatch a little rest and here and there when they could.

"Here and there," Rick said. "Most everyone is in the gym. They've got a kickball and have devised some kind of game. I tried to join in, but I didn't have the patience to learn the rules and Judith didn't have any intention of skipping her nap."

"Where is she now?" Daryl asked.

"Sleeping," Rick said. "Just got her down. Don't you think he might need a blanket?"

Daryl sighed and reached around, picking up the blanket with his free hand and showing it to Rick.

"Don't'cha start that shit too, nagging me like an old woman," Daryl responded. "He likes it a lil' cool an' Carol's tryin' ta make him fuckin' well done."

Rick chuckled softly.

"How's she doing?" Rick asked.

Daryl sighed.

"Kid ain't but a week old an' she's been insistin' on workin' damn near a week," Daryl responded. "Wish she'd just cool her jets."

Rick nodded.

"Carol's like that…" he said. "She's going to do what she has to try to take care of everyone."

Rick clapped Daryl on the shoulder and leaned his head toward him, lowering his voice a little.

"And that's why you have to be the one to take care of her," Rick said.

Daryl nodded his head. Cayden was starting to stir and Daryl knew it was going to be time to eat soon. He didn't dare go too far with his son when he had him because the little thing wanted to eat all the time it seemed.

"I'm doin' what I can," Daryl said, shifting the baby a bit as he started the squeaking noises he made to tell Daryl and anyone else that was listening that he expected a magical milk producing boob and he expected it soon.

Rick squeezed Daryl's shoulder, smiling.

"And you're doing well," Rick responded. "Looks like he's starting to make demands again."

Daryl smiled and shook his head slightly.

"All the damn time," he responded. He didn't say anything else before turning and heading back toward his cell to rouse Carol and offer her the baby.

Carol did try to take care of everyone else, and no matter how much that might bother Daryl, he couldn't do anything about it. He would do whatever he could, though, to take care of her and to take care of Cayden. They were the most important thing in his world now. They were his entire world, and Daryl Dixon was a man who believed in taking care of what was his, no matter what he had to do to achieve that goal.

Daryl smiled as he ducked into the cell, his son starting to really raise his voice in protest over the fact that he was so damn hungry he couldn't remember his last meal, even though Daryl thought there was still some evidence of it dried in the corner of his mouth. Carol was already awake, somehow able to hear even the softest of squeaks a mile away.

Carol frowned at him when he came in.

"Why isn't he wrapped up?" She asked.

Daryl smiled at her.

"Get off my ass an' get them boobies out," Daryl said, shifting his son to pass him to her. "He ain't cold, he's starvin'."

Carol didn't argue with him anymore. She was out of her shirt in a matter of seconds and Daryl watched, as he always did, still a little amazed when his son latched on to feed.

Daryl sat on the side of the bed beside Carol. He watched her watching Cayden and then reached over, catching her head and pulling her toward him enough to kiss her temple. She smiled, moaning a little at him with the satisfaction of being kissed.

"Soon as he eats," Daryl said, "ya goin' ta go back ta sleep for a bit."

"I'm going to have to help with dinner soon," Carol protested.

Daryl growled in her ear, holding her face close to him.

"Not tonight, ya ain't," Daryl said. "That's an order."

"You're the boss of me?" Carol teased.

"Damn straight, woman," Daryl responded. "So top the bean off an' start thinkin' 'bout what the hell kinda dream world ya wanna dream about 'cause ya goin' ta sleep."

Carol chuckled softly.

"I think I'm already living my dream," Carol said.

She turned then and kissed Daryl and he leaned into the kiss. It was going to kill him not being able to be with her until Alice said it was OK, but he could hold out…It was just too bad that kisses like that always left him wanting more of her than he could have.

"That's alright," Daryl said. "Ya still goin' ta sleep."

"You're going to watch Cayden?" Carol asked, switching the baby over to her other breast as he smacked at her and obviously considered fussing about the interruption to his dining experience.

"Ya know it," Daryl said.

"And you're going to wrap him up so he doesn't get cold?" Carol asked.

Daryl chuckled and growled at her again.

"I'll wrap the fuckin' kid up like a damn burrito or some shit," Daryl said. "Don't'cha worry about it."

"I have to worry, Daryl," Carol said. "It's my job."

"Don't I fuckin' know it?" Daryl responded.

Carol laughed at him and he continued to sit beside her, watching her feed their son. When she was done, she took the blanket from him and he watched as she rolled the baby back up in the tight little bundle that he'd freed him from earlier. He didn't protest, though. Daryl slid back on the bed in the position that he'd been in before, grateful that she hadn't noticed that he'd turned the heat off and accepted the baby from her.

Carol settled down next to him, yawning widely, and Daryl sat there holding his son and running his fingers through her soft short curls until her breathing evened out.

For however many people that were left in the world, it may have all gone to shit. For everyone else it may very well have seemed like the end. Daryl didn't dispute that truth for a single other living soul, but for him, it felt like it was really just beginning.


AN: Obviously, I do not own "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," but I'll put it here if it needs to be said. I hope you enjoyed! Let me know what you think! I'll try to update sometime, but like I said, I'll only be updating this one as it bugs me to be updated…at least until "Broken Mirrors" or "Lightning Only Strikes Once" is done.