::Welcome back! I can't thank you guys enough for all of the awesome read counts I'm getting. I would LOVE to hear what you think as you make your way through the latest installment of Winchester Ranch. I hope you enjoy.

lots of hugs and internetty love,

the girl with the dinosaur tattoo::

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Chapter 1

The light was immense.

I couldn't open my eyes all the way; it was just too bright. I couldn't focus on anything in front of me. It was as if I was using them for the first time. I rolled over and did what I could to blink the blur away as I sat up, but nothing I did worked. The room surrounding me was bright white. Empty.

But blurry.

Sitting up, I leaned forward, holding my head between my legs, and tried to clear my mind. The echo of voices rang through my head louder than they ever had before and it was a little overwhelming. It was as if Angel Radio had been turned up full blast.

My eyes shot open, even though they had yet to perform their duties accurately. Angel Radio hadn't worked in my mind in months. Nothing had. My grace had been shoddy since that woman—since that angel had done everything in her power to destroy my family. I had essentially been completely human since Everett had been taken. Which meant—

Memories began coming back in flashes; holding Everett in my arms, the brick and concrete tunnels coming down around us, telling Dean not to come after me…

I was dead.

I had to be.

Looking down at my hands, I strained and concentrated as best as I knew how. Castiel had told me once to see through the light, to use what I knew as a Nephilim to use the light. Let it become a part of me. I closed my eyes, taking a deep breath, and opened them once more. The room came into crystal clarity and I heaved a sigh of relief.

"Okay," I breathed, nodding slowly to myself. "Okay."

Slowly the idea that I was dead was coming back into focus, along with the room around me. The bright white of my surroundings told me that I was back in Heaven and slowly, my mouth went dry. I stared at my hands, turning them over in front of me, looking for the injuries that I knew I had sustained while I had been in the tunnel with my family. My skin was back to being wound-free. I was back in a body, even though I knew that my body was back on Earth, most likely broken beyond repair, even as a Nephilim.

Delilah had taken my grace.

It hit me again that I must be dead.

"Oh my god," I whispered shakily. "No."

"Hello, Grace Winchester," a voice greeted me from behind.

I whipped around, panic seeping into my very pores. I had abandoned my family. I had left my kids. I was dead.

"Hello?" I asked, turning towards the voice, but seeing no one. "Who's there?"

A woman walked slowly towards me, her long, dark hair in a neat bun at the base of her neck. She wore a gray business suit and walked stiffly as she observed me from across the room. "Do you remember me, Grace?" she asked.

Staring at her, I struggled to place her. "Mahalia," I whispered, remembering her from bringing Sammy home from Heaven all those years ago. "Yes. I remember."

"And you understand why you are here?"

I pressed my tongue up against the back of my teeth, struggling my own reality. "I'm—" I took a deep breath. "I'm dead."

"Let it never be said that you are slow, honey," she smiled warmly at me. "Welcome to Heaven."

Mahalia led me down the bright white halls and was attempting to explain that I had the ability to move about as I saw fit until my own Heaven had been assigned to me. After that, I was to stay in my own Heaven or the Gardens unless needed for something else.

"I know what you are thinking, Grace Winchester," Mahalia sighed as she watched me look longingly down the hall. "But you belong here. Your time on Earth is ended and your time here in Heaven is begun, Nephilim or not."

I licked my lips and tried to nod and agree, but everything in me argued against her. I held my tongue, though, and continued to follow her down the white hall. "Where is my mother?" I asked, knowing that Evangeline was lurking among the halls somewhere, I was sure of it. She would be waiting in the wings to see her eldest daughter take up residence in Heaven alongside her.

Mahalia turned towards me slowly and smiled gently. "She is on assignment," she replied. "Perhaps you can reconnect at a later date."

"Assignment?" I asked, "Okay." Panic was beginning to take hold again as I pictured my kids' faces and felt the desperation of separation. "Okay," I sighed, mostly to myself as I struggled to hold it together.

Turning to face me for the first time since we were reintroduced, Mahalia tilted her head and stared up at me. "It is difficult to make the transition," she began gently. "Especially if one is not expecting to die, but you're safe here, Grace. Your children will make the adjustments and they will be strong." She smiled and took a deep breath. "Your husband will heal as well."

"And my sister?" I asked, finally finding my voice.

"Your sister…" Mahalia pressed her lips together and sighed lightly. "Well, you sister is a Warrior of Heaven. She'll figure things out eventually."

I shook my head and turned in a full circle, trying to figure out what would happen next. If this was it, if this is where I would have to spend eternity, I wanted to at least be involved with my kids. I wanted to know that they were okay. I wanted to be able to watch Dean and make sure he was handling things without me, or at least watch him struggle.

"I want to be a Guardian," I blurted, turning back towards Mahalia. "I want to be able to check on my kids."

"There is plenty of time, Grace," Mahalia answered, folding her hands in front of her. "Your destiny will be revealed in all due time."

I shook my head and closed my eyes, "Destiny?" I asked. "I'm dead. This is kinda it as far as Destiny goes."

The corner of Mahalia's mouth tugged into a gentle smile. "Mm," she murmured, still holding her knowing, wry grin.