Title: stage one (the rest comes after)

Author: sablize

Character/Pairing: Mike, Rachel, mentions of Grammy

Summary: It's like his whole world just… falls away. Episode tag to 2x09.

Spoilers: 2x09.

Disclaimer: Don't own it.

Author's Notes: Please excuse this quickie—I should be writing my NaNo novel, but this episode was too angsty and too perfect to not write a fic for. This is my first foray into Suits fic so forgive me if I got anything wrong.
Parts about the Five Stages taken from Wikipedia and PsychCentral.

It's like his whole world just… falls away.

One moment he's adding the final touches to his Grammy's apartment and yelling "Surprise!", and the next he's faced with a tearful Rachel, standing where his grandmother should be.

He lets her in with the best of expectations—she must have come to help with the surprise or to compliment him on a job well done, and since Grammy likes her so much he doesn't really mind. It isn't until she sets her bag down, takes a deep shuddering breath and says, quickly as though she wants to get it over with, "Mike… someone kept calling the office for you" that he realizes that something is terribly, terribly wrong.

And as she explains, little pieces of his world begin to chip away, small, quick. There is an ache—of foreboding, of fear—that builds and builds and settles heavily on his chest before she even says the words.

"It's your grandma." And the pause is hours long. Then, "She passed away."

It feels like something is sitting on his chest. He can't breathe.

"No," he says reflexively (isn't the first stage of grief always denial? He had read that, somewhere, once). "No, she's—"

Rachel struggles for words. "I—I'm so sorry." And he doesn't know why she's apologizing because his grandmother cannot be dead, goddamnit. She can't be. She can't be.

(The stages, popularly known by the acronym DABDA, include: 1. Denial—)

"She didn't even… get to see—"

(—The first reaction to learning of terminal illness or death of a cherished loved one—)

"I know," Rachel says, hushed, and she clutches his shoulders desperately. "I'm—I'm so sorry." Her eyes are filled with tears that Mike is still too numb (so, so numb) to shed. She pulls him into a hug and he breaks, right there; he hits the cold hard ground that is reality and the numbness shatters into glittering shards, and his nerves are on fire and all he wants to do is scream.

It's his parents' death all over again.

(—deny the reality of the situation—)

"I'm so sorry," she says for the millionth time over, and he hates the words because they won't leave him alone, because he's heard them all his life; from doctors explaining his parents' deaths, from Grammy herself as she comforted his grieving eleven-year-old self, from relatives at his parents' funeral, from the dean of his college as he pleaded for his education, from all the girls who didn't want to date him, and now from Rachel as she tells him that the last anchor in his life is simply gone.

His brain, his stupid stupid brain runs him over the Five Stages of Grief again and again and again. He cries on Rachel's shoulder as the words appear before his eyes, clear as day—

(2. Anger As the masking effects of denial and isolation begin to wear, reality and its pain re-emerge—)

He thinks of all the times his grandmother had held his hand as they crossed the street, all the times she had packed his lunch for school, helped him with his homework, offered a shoulder to cry on when he was missing his parents or being picked on because he was too damn smart for your own good, kid, but you'll show them in the end. You're smarter than all of them put together. You'll show them.

(3. Bargaining – The normal reaction to feelings of helplessness and vulnerability is often a need to regain control—)

He thinks of all the ways he disappointed her, getting kicked out of college and smoking weed with Trevor and wasting his potential on a job as a bike messenger, taking tests for people to get them a job and a life he thought he could never have. And he thinks of all the ways he was just beginning to make all that up.

(4. Depression – Two types of depression are associated with mourning. The first one is a reaction to practical implications relating to the loss. Sadness and regret predominate this type of depression—)

He thinks of all the jobs she had to work to support him, how she put up with him being a pain in the ass and an idiot with enough wasted potential to fill the oceans, how she cared for him and loved him even at his worst.

(5. Acceptance – Reaching this stage of mourning is a gift not afforded to everyone. Death may be sudden and unexpected or we may never see beyond our anger or denial—)

He thinks of the things she will never see: her new apartment, his wedding, his children, an office with his name on the door.

She is—was, now—his anchor. And now she has been ripped away and he is left floating aimlessly, clinging to Rachel in some desperate attempt at imitation; he cries on her shoulder and he breathes and each breath is another breath in a world that no longer contains his grandmother.

And all he can do is cling and cry and breathe and recite the Five Stages of Grief and hope that, one day, he will know what acceptance feels like.