A/N From the prompt posted in Sniperolf's Junks forum. The prompt was basically- 'write about Sharla teaching Shulk how to use a rifle'. As I know nothing about rifles, everything was Googled, made up or nicked from series 1 episode 2 of Torchwood. This fic tried to be about Shulk but then Sharla took over. She's just annoying like that.
The ether rifle was not as heavy as it looked. It was made of a light metal that Shulk guessed had once belonged to an Mechon M64. Shulk fumbled with it, trying to get his hands into the right position.
"Hey, hey! Watch where you're aiming that!" Sharla said, hurriedly moving out of the rifle's line of fire.
"Sorry," he said through gritted teeth. He managed to raise the rifle up so he could look through the eye piece.
"Stand with your feet apart and square your shoulders."
They were at Colony 6, just beyond the Pod Depot. Sharla had quickly thrown together a few scraggly scarecrows with debris she found lying about. These were to be the targets. Shulk selected the ugliest one and waited for further instruction.
Dunban had assured them that this was an experiment doomed to fail. Sharla shooed him away, saying he should see if there was anything to do to help Otharon. Reyn was supposed to be looking after the Monado but had in fact fallen asleep and was snoring lightly. Sharla had already decided she would take revenge later on, she just wasn't sure what form it would take.
For now, she turned back to Shulk.
"OK, good," she said. "Now squeeze the trigger- and remember it's going to kick!"
Shulk did as she commanded, ever the good student. The rifle jolted back into his shoulder and he winced. Then there was a deafening CRACK- Shulk knew the rifle made a lot of noise, but he'd never had it go off so close to him before. He wondered how Sharla had retained her hearing. The shot itself whizzed harmlessly by the scarecrow, missing by a few inches. Shulk grimaced.
"That was very good for a first try, Shulk," said Sharla soothingly.
He was already lining up another shot, grimly determined to get it right. He squeezed the trigger and fired another shot. It was another miss, but it was closer than the last had been.
"You need to keep your hands steady," said Sharla. "You're shaking as you pull the trigger and it's throwing it off. Are you OK?"
"Yeah. I just can't believe I'm actually doing this!"
Neither can I, she thought. Instead of voicing it, she laughed. "Try again and remember to keep your hands steady."
This time the bullet just brushed the edge of the scarecrow. It was still enough to make the thing collapse in on itself.
"Your first hit," said Sharla, a hint of pride in her voice. "Third time lucky."
"Yeah!" Shulk punched the air Reyn style. Sharla supposed it was natural for such close friends to pick up each other's habits. Lately Reyn had been using the same 'thinking face' Shulk used- hand under chin, eyebrows drawn together, pursed lips. Shulk somehow pulled it off without looking like a complete idiot- Reyn did not. Sharla had to bite the insides of her mouth to stop herself from laughing each time he did it. She forced her mind back to the task at hand.
"See if you can do it again."
He nodded and carefully lined up yet another shot. Sharla wondered what was taking him so long and then hurriedly reminded herself that he was a beginner and that lining up shots took practice. She was so used to just doing that kind of thing, she'd forgotten she'd had to learn.
This one was perfect. The bullet cut neatly through the air and pierced the scarecrow's chest.
"Ha!" said Shulk. His eyes lit up like ether lamps and Sharla laughed at his delighted expression.
The next one missed, the one after that was perfect once again. Then there was a succession of shots where Shulk hit an arm or a leg. Eventually, Shulk paused.
"Ow," he said. "It's burning my hands."
Sharla was surprised he'd only just noticed. She would have usually stopped for cool down a few shots back.
"OK, you can't shoot anymore without cooling it down."
"How do I cool it down?"
"Press the button to vent the heat and then wait."
"It's all you can do. There are more advanced ether rifles that cool down much quicker than this. But they're expensive because the materials we need to make them are extremely rare."
Shulk lowered the rifle. "My shoulder is killing me," he confessed.
"That's probably enough for today," she agreed, taking back the rifle.
"That was really fun. I hope we can do it again sometime Sharla," he said.
"I'm sure we will."
Reyn suddenly bounded up from behind them.
"That was great Shulk. Really good."
An idea occurred to Sharla. An idea that would teach Reyn a lesson for slacking off all afternoon.
"You weren't asleep the whole time then?"
"Nope. I was wide awake," Reyn fibbed cheerfully, as both Sharla and Shulk knew he would.
"So you agree to my proposal then?" Sharla said wickedly.
"Yes. If you were awake you would have heard it. Do you agree?"
Sharla put on her fiercest expression in order to convey that if Reyn did not agree he would be very sorry indeed.
"Y-Yeah. OK," said Reyn.
"Great. It'll be amazing to have a live target for our next session, eh Shulk? Hitting scarecrows just isn't quite the same."
Reyn opened his mouth as if to protest. Then he closed it again. He made a kind of shocked spluttering noise. That's interesting, thought Sharla. He hasn't done that before.
"Sharla!" Shulk protested.
"It's alright, I was just joking. But you should know better than to sleep all afternoon, Reyn."
They seamlessly moved back to the bickering Shulk had quickly grown used to. He picked up the Monado from where he'd laid it down earlier. He wasn't stupid. He knew there was no way he was fit to fight- not properly, at the same level as the others-without it. He couldn't hit things with the same force as Reyn- he found it a struggle even to lift Reyn's weapon-and his session with Sharla had shown him that he wasn't much good with an ether rifle either. If anything happened to the Monado, that would be it. The end. Shulk was a technician, not a fighter. Taking up arms almost felt like he was betraying himself. But Fiora. Colony 9. He was no longer willing to sit by and let the things he loved go without a fight.
I'm betting everything on the Monado, he thought. It lets me see the future, but it is also the very thing that will decide what my own future will be.