I'm giving this one-shot (my first in this fandom) to my darling Co-Conspirator who hooked me on this amazing universe.
I own neither the characters nor universe of Katekyou Hitman Reborn!

Looking down at the arena now, Superbi Squalo would not have guessed how his opinion could have changed. He remembered his first impression of the other heir as being quite similar to what other people might have thought when presented with a particularly unpleasant bit of roadkill. Unfortunate, disgusting, pitiful, and just a smidgen of 'got what you deserved for being so weak.'

He remembers his wrath when he'd heard the unfair and stupid decision passed down from on high, from the Ninth. He remembers the fluid rage that flowed through his limbs when he decided to follow Xanxus, even though it meant going against the word of Vongola High Command. A pathetic, civilian, scrap of a boy, no better suited to leading a Mafia Family than he was to serving as a foot-soldier.

He'd heard the whispers from CEDEF, of a wimpy unprepared soft mind, unsuited to the sharpness of necessity. They spoke of unworthy trash that had somehow been elevated above his cousin's rightful birthright. Above Xanxus; who had been wronged too deeply to think of. Who was bound and determined to earn, by force, what he'd been promised was his by blood.

Squalo rallied and refocused, using his time as an observer to his leader's best benefit. He wasn't the best watcher in their group, but his eyes were keen and his impressions were remarkably accurate. So, while everyone else was caught up in the staged battles for the rings, Squalo fixed his gaze on Xanxus' rival.

A pathetic rival by all reckoning, to be sure, not even worth as much as Xanxus' little finger. And yet, something drew him in. Squalo's loyalties were secure, there was nothing that could change who he'd resonated with. They were such a good fit besides.

And yet.

Squalo watched the other heir wince and cringe and feel for his chosen guardians, and wanted to mock him for his weakness.

He was struck, then, by the intense outpouring of power and sheer, towering, presence rolling of the little heir. Squalo could not have denied the child's worth anymore even if he'd tried, but lying to himself was something he'd set aside long ago. So, the other heir was powerful. So what? That boy wasn't better suited to the position than Xanxus, and he certainly wasn't better able to defend Vongola from its many enemies.

Squalo was sure the other heir could be even more powerful, if only he'd let go of his weaknesses and stop letting his 'friends' drag him down by keeping his heart open to distractions. Then, perhaps the little heir would be a worthy rival to Xanxus' bid for the inheritance.

As the iron towers crumpled around the arena for the Lightning Ring Battle, Squalo hoped that the little heir's power didn't only come when he needed to protect someone. Power like that was unpredictable, unreliable, and untrainable. What use is anything like that if it can't be used in a show of force? Ultimately, if his power was only as deep as it needed to be to protect others, it would never be enough to defend the Vongola Empire.

Squalo watched with satisfaction as the complete Sky Ring sat on Xanxus' finger, where it belonged. The little heir wasn't worthy of the ring, or even being called Xanxus' rival, but Squalo couldn't deny the whispered allure of roaring potential that roiled within the little heir's soul. He felt it keenly, blazing at the edges of his senses. The little heir didn't have enough, not yet.

But, maybe someday, he would.

I have ideas for these two that could possibly be implemented in further chapters (if there's enough interest) which would end up with a relationship closer to the original prompt for this adventure. "Write a story where your MC falls for the antagonist," which seemed a little contrived and boring, so I reversed the traditional "good guy/bad guy" roles and gave you this instead. I hope you enjoyed it!