AN: This is my version of season one, an episode at a time. I've mixed up the pairings, some of them involve slash relationships. Also, there is mild course language but nothing too offensive. Anyway, this is how I see our favourite Patersons Ridge residents. Enjoy!

1. THE RACE

Victoria Blackwood was on her way home from finishing school. The coach ride was bumpy and uncomfortable. Among her fellow passengers she noted there was a handsome young man. A man with blue eyes who carried an American-style pistol. Victoria herself already had her eye on someone but this man was cute, he'd be perfect for her best friend. Now she just needed to find out more about this stranger. Conveniently Jack, who was sharing this coach ride with them, asked the very question she'd been pondering.

"Where you from?"

"Wyoming," the stranger answered. American, she knew it. And he was here for the race, great. That meant he and Robbie had something in common. She couldn't help but notice though that throughout this exchange the young man never smiled. In fact he was almost hostile, but that of course just added to the air of danger about him, making him all the more appealing. And then he looked her way. His gaze was piercing and she looked away. Wow, Robbie was really in for a treat.

xxx

Matt McGregor. Pride of the high country. A brilliant rider, runs a successful grazing enterprise, known and loved by all, ridiculously good looking, an A1 moustache and all round great bloke. Or so he liked to think. On this particular day Matt, his eldest son Colin and daughter Danni were bringing some beasts down from the hilltops to the lower pastures for winter grazing. Danni had been pestering him all day about the blasted race and he wasn't going to back down. When Matt McGregor said no, he meant no. He was not about to let his only daughter go charging around the countryside on horseback where she could possibly get herself killed.

"Sometimes I hate you," was Danni's parting comment for him. Well wasn't that a lovely thing for a girl to say to her father. His ponderings of a punishment for her were interrupted by his other son, Robbie. Robbie had been further up the mountain looking for stragglers. Robbie rode in and announced that someone was moving into the old O'Neil place. Great, just what Matt needed. In answer to Colin's question they would go up there and move whoever had the nerve to muscle in on someone else's land that he'd been using for free for years right along.

xxx

Kathleen O'Neil was a confident, independent woman raising her only son Michael alone. And as if it wasn't enough that she had to fend off poisonous snakes whilst reclaiming her home, that insufferable Matt McGregor and his buffoon sons had to show up. Danni was with them but being a girl, surely she wouldn't be as stupid as the men, maybe Kathleen could tolerate her. Okay, so maybe the boys weren't as silly as they looked. Upon realising who she was they went back to work, but of course Matt wasn't going to give up that easily.

"Kathleen, you can't just move back in here." What a ridiculous man, of course she was allowed to move back into her own house. He prattled on some about this law and that and technically he probably was right but his arrogance was infuriating and right then and there Kathleen vowed to herself that she would never let him win. Seeing that he would not win this round Matt called to his daughter as though she were a dog and the pair rode off together. Good riddance. And then in a fit of madness Kathleen made a promise to her son that this was their home and they were here to stay. Look out Patersons Ridge.

xxx

Colin McGregor admired his father. He was a man who stuck to his guns and always did what he thought was best for Langara and for his family.

"Hey, Dad what are you going to do about Mrs. O'Neil?" Colin asked but he didn't really pay attention to the answer. His attention had already been drawn into the other room where his little sister seemed to be fighting with the sofa cushions.

"Danni, what's the matter?" Colin asked, hating to see his sister upset.

"Dad thinks I'm useless."

"No he doesn't," Colin said, wanting to comfort his sister as well as defend his father.

"Then why won't he let me go in the race?" Danni wasn't going to let this drop. Colin sat down beside his sister.

"How did Mum die?" It was a hard truth that their mother had died in a riding accident but one that Danni needed to think about to better understand their father's motives. It was difficult for Colin to admit that his sister was growing up, both he and their father would do anything to keep her safe. When Danni turned to him with understanding on her face it was a comfort to Colin. A bright, safe and happy future for her was the thing Colin prayed hardest for.

xxx

Luke McGregor had finally arrived; so this was the infamous Patersons Ridge. It didn't look like much from where he was standing. Luke alighted the coach and watched that snotty girl that had been eyeballing him for the last hour walk away. Thank God, maybe he could have some peace for the moment.

"She's not for the likes of you mate," the old codger from the coach said to him as he unloaded his bags and saddle.

"Never crossed my mind," Luke said truthfully. She was altogether too soft and pretty and well….female for his tastes. But she was the type of girl he'd be expected to swoon over so he'd keep her in mind if he ever needed a beard in the future. But that was all trivial nonsense, there was only one reason Luke had come to this shitty little middle-of-nowhere town and that was Matt McGregor, the famous Man from Snowy River. Every year a race was held to commemorate his famous ride and Luke was here to win it, simple as that. He would be victorious over Matt and in doing so prove himself the better man.

Stepping out of the store Luke overheard some men talking about Matt McGregor. He looked up to see Matt, the big bloke on the grey, riding alongside two men and a girl who Luke could only assume were Matt's children; his cousins. One of the men next to Luke was telling another about the original ride and Luke almost vomited at the disgustingly adoring way the man spoke. To hear this man speak you'd be forgiven for thinking Matt was a saint. Luke continued to watch with cold calculation as the happy family rode by with no clue who had just arrived in their sleepy little town. Luke's life had been building to this for years. Years of waiting and plotting to finally show Matt McGregor who the better McGregor truly was. Luke wandered to the end of the veranda, watching Matt's every move. Look at him, smiling and chatting with his doting fans. Luke could feel the bile rising again, now they were even singing songs about how wonderful Matt was; Luke was sure gonna show him come race time. Matt turned and his eyes met Luke's. When he looked into his uncles eyes Luke had the sudden thought that maybe he wasn't good enough to do this. Matt turned back to his loving children, children who still had a father to love. A pang of loneliness shot through him; he had to get away and pull himself together. He could not fail now.

xxx

Oliver Blackwood was sick of hearing this crap. Matt McGregor this and Matt McGregor that. This town worshipped that unworthy man. Sure, Oliver could admit that Matt was a fine stockman but he certainly didn't think Matt was deserving of the constant praise he received. Oliver was a smart man and he knew that it worked to his advantage to have Matt as an ally rather than an enemy and for that reason he remained civil to the man. But of course any chance he got to secretly undermine Matt or claim some of the town's goodwill for himself Oliver would take. Like donating some cattle as the prize for the race. By doing so it meant that his name would be mentioned alongside Matt's in regards to the race and the citizens of Patersons Ridge would send a little of their love his way too.

The crowd dispersed and Oliver took the opportunity to approach Matt. Lately there was one more reason he wanted to remain in favour with the man.

"McGregor!" Oliver called to gain Matt's attention.

"Oliver," the other man said in return.

"You're looking well," Oliver said, wanting to appear informal and friendly.

"Thank-you, so are you," Matt replied. It irked Oliver to behave so but he wanted Matt to agree with his proposal. Hopefully if he played it casually Matt would agree without a second thought.

"You, ah, you should come up to the house for dinner some time. Bring that daughter of yours," Oliver said nervously, fiddling with the saddle on Matt's horse. Remembering that Victoria had come home today, he added, "she and Victoria should see more of each other." There should be no reason for Matt to find that suspicious.

Infuriatingly Matt walked away giving Oliver no choice but to follow. He fell into step beside the obstinate man. Perhaps a common enemy would bring them together.

"So, what are we gonna do about that O'Neil woman?"

"You mean Mrs. O'Neil?"

"Yeah, the O'Neil woman. She's trying to move back onto that little farm they had..."

xxx

"...I won't be crossed on this."

"C'mon, 300 acres? You don't need that land any more than I do."

"I'll handle it; just don't get in my way."

Luke watched the exchange with fascination. Matt McGregor was arguing with a fine looking gentleman. Whoever this man was he seemed to have Matt's measure. Noticing the girl from the coach approach Luke removed his hat to make an enquiry.

"Pardon me miss."

"Yes?"

"Who is that man?"

"That's Oliver Blackwood," she informed with an air of importance. Blackwood. He'd remember that.

"He looks like a tough customer."

"He can be," she said batting her eyelids at him.

"And who're you?"

"I'm Victoria Blackwood, he's my father." She seemed to think that made her important judging by the way she strode off leaving him with the information. Luke sighed, it appeared he was going to have to play nice with her after all. Because any enemy of Matt McGregor's was a friend of his.

xxx

Rob McGregor liked sandwiches. He loved the different fillings the ladies came up with, and the way they cut them into little triangles so he could try some of everything.

He stood with his brother by the refreshments table, watching their father make a fool of himself. Their dad swung his arms wildly and skipped about as he 'danced' with Danni. His sister was fourteen; he understood her wanting to flail about to the tune of the banjo but what in God's name was his father thinking? Was he drunk? Had he taken a tumble from his horse and hit his head on a rock? Or was he just plain idiotic?

"Sandwiches alright boys?" Mrs. Carney enquired.

"Yeah great," Rob said enthusiastically, as he held one up and munched vigorously on another. Mastication was the key to good nutrition. The cattle knew it was the best way to get the most out of your food, and so Robbie was mindful of practicing the same.

"Oh it's good to see," Mrs. Carney remarked in reference to his father's tomfoolery. "He needs to have a bit of fun now and then."

"Ya reckon?" Was that what his dad was doing? Robbie was still trying to decide if what his dad was doing was dancing or trying to shake a stray possum out of his trousers.

"Why yes, we all do," she said nodding towards Colin. Just because his brother was a minister didn't mean he didn't have any fun. Why just yesterday they'd rode up to the top pasture to bring the cattle down. And speaking of fun, Robbie looked across the crowd and spotted the potential for some more.

"See ya later." He darted off, still shovelling sandwiches into his mouth.

He'd spotted his best mate. She'd just come back from some fancy school or other in Melbourne and he took a moment to watch her, studying her for signs of her new education. He'd missed her while she'd been away.

"She was asking about you." Danni informed him, clearly hoping to get a reaction from him. He joined in her sibling banter because it was expected. He shoved her when she teased him about having a crush on Victoria and she hit him with her hat. There was a time when he'd thought he and Victoria might be married one day but as they'd grown up their friendship had never gone beyond that, and strangely Robbie found he didn't mind that at all.

xxx

Danni McGregor wasn't going to let being a girl stop her. So her stupid dad had put his foot down over the race but that didn't mean she couldn't have any fun. She lashed the whip again, striking the coin and earning herself a cheer from the crowd.

"Can you do it?" A scathing voice demanded from the crowd. "Can you?" It was directed at Matt with more venom than a King Brown bite.

"Well I dunno," Matt sniffed, "it's been a while since I tried."

"But you're the Man from Snowy River, aren't you?" The American mocked viciously.

"I'm Matt McGregor."

"Why don't you show us?" the stranger sneered, getting right up in Matt's face. Robbie sprang forward, coming to his father's defence.

"Why don't you have a go?"

"Sure." The American agreed, an ominous calm steeling over him. Suddenly he pulled his pistol and fired at the coin. Danni jumped back with a squeal. Robbie couldn't help but notice it was a perfectly aimed shot.

"Give me that!" Matt growled, snatching the weapon away from the reckless youngster. "You coulda killed her!"

"I missed her by yards." The comment did nothing to dampen Matt's outrage.

"I don't care what you do, or where you're from but out here you do not fire guns in town. Now if you ever fire a gun with one of my kids in front of it, I'll break it over your head." Matt emphasised his point by tossing the gun into a nearby water trough. Luke seethed. Matt had no right to chastise him as though he were his father. Not to mention he'd made him look like a fool. Matt would pay for this.

xxx

Matt was fuming. How dare that American upstart endanger Danni's life like that! He stomped towards the pickle stall, where he happened to overhear a conversation between Oliver and Kathleen. For Pete's sake! Did he have to fix everything in this town? Oliver was trying to buy Kathleen's land. He'd just offered her 150 pounds for it.

"And I'll give you 200," Matt chimed in.

"It's not for sale," she insisted. "You two are the same aren't you? Took up thousands of acres when the land was free and now you think you own the whole country." With that Kathleen stormed off.

"When we moved in here there was nothing. We opened it up, we should own it," Oliver said as he gathered various jars of preserves to purchase.

"She kept half the bargain, she's working the land."

"But she hasn't stocked it and there's no way she can." Oliver had a point.

xxx

Robbie wasn't sure what to think. There was something about that American from earlier, some feeling he couldn't shake. He sat on the porch step, fiddling with his hat as he pondered it. Something about the stranger got under his skin. It wasn't only his recklessness with the pistol, or the disrespectful way he'd treated Rob's father. It was something more to do with the lingering look they'd shared and those sorrowful blue eyes...

He looked up, happy when he spotted Victoria, he hadn't had a chance to speak to her yet. She was wearing a peach and white dress with extremely puffy sleeves that looked impractical.

"Hi," he called to her and she halted her progress. "Welcome home."

"Thank-you."

"Are you gonna watch the race tomorrow?"

"Yes I am." Her voice was different, she was putting on airs and graces she needn't with him. Must be that posh school.

"Well I'm gonna come past your place, maybe I could pick ya up on the way?"

"Oh thank-you Robbie but I already have an escort." She directed his gaze to where the brooding American stood, poised dangerously with his hand on the butt of his pistol. He watched them with intense blue eyes, his bandana blowing slightly in the breeze. Did Victoria have the hots for this stranger? "But I'll be cheering you on of course."

"Thanks." He watched her walk off and found himself alarmed by the thought. Something about it just didn't quite sit right. Robbie's gaze wandered back to the handsome stranger. And one thing he knew for certain was that he didn't like the idea of Victoria getting too friendly with the bloke, not at all.

xxx

"Excuse me," said Victoria, interrupting the conversation between her father and two young women. Her intrusion didn't matter, her father was always talking to young women.

"Dad, there's someone I want you to meet." She planned to introduce her father to Luke, the young man from the coach. If her dad liked him there was a chance he'd put him on as a stockman. Victoria wanted to get close to the handsome young pistoleer for two reasons. One, she wanted to get to know him; he was rather intriguing. And two? Well, there was a simple fact about Robbie McGregor that Victoria was aware of. One that she knew Robbie would deny if she told him, but if she showed him? Well there'd be no arguing with that, and getting close to Luke was the best way she could think of to prove her point.

xxx

"Alright you blokes! I want all the fellas who are riding in the race tomorrow to line up here in an orderly fashion!"

Colin watched the proceedings from the porch of the hotel. He wasn't riding this year, preferring to let someone else have a go at winning instead. Robbie signed up and then the American picked a fight with his father. Surprise, surprise. This man seemed to have it in for The Man from Snowy River. He demanded to know why Matt wasn't riding, and what time he'd done the original ride in. This young man intrigued Colin. Whilst the rest of the townsfolk found the American's hissy fit amusing, Colin wondered about the motives behind it and where he'd come from. When the laughing pack moved off Colin was sensible enough to simply check the ledger for answers and discovered an unexpected name where the American had signed.

xxx

Danni was determined. She'd prove to her pig-headed father she could do anything a boy could. One way or another she would ride in this race. Wrapped in an oilskin coat and shrouded by a large hat she reached for the pen to sign up. To her dismay she was discovered but was quick enough to make up a cock and bull story about entering a friend, plucking Michael O'Neil's name from the air. The steward bought it and she gave him a dimpled grin before signing Michael's name.

xxx

Armed with his new found knowledge of the American's identity Colin tracked the hostile man down at the farriers. He was examining a horse to purchase for the race. Colin knew for a fact the horse he was inspecting was lame and offering an olive branch, he told the American so. His statement was met with doubt until the man found the faulty tendon for himself. Colin's helpful honesty encouraged the stranger to listen to him.

"You want the bay over there," Colin instructed, indicating to a finer horse across the yard. The American heeded his advice and Colin followed him over to help inspect the animal. "I noticed on your entry form...

x

...your last name's McGregor."

"That's right. We're cousins." Apparently one of these backwater hicks had a brain Luke appreciated.

"I don't have any cousins." Maybe not.

"Alec McGregor is my father," Luke told him, expecting the name to mean something to his cousin.

"Oh. We knew dad had a brother in America but we haven't heard from him, we thought he was dead. Well welcome to the family," he extended his hand. Well wasn't that charming? 'We thought your dad was dead, never bothered to follow up on it. Either way, welcome! I won't bother enquiring whether he is or not.' "Colin," he introduced. His enthusiasm was brutally rebuffed with a withering look. Though Luke felt a little bad, he had to admit Colin had saved him wasting his cash on a useless nag.

"You were right about the horse."

xxx

Luke shook Mr. Blackwood's hand before the landowner drove off. He'd turned to mount the fine bay gelding his cousin had helped him select when he heard his name being called by Matt McGregor.

"Colin just told me. How's ya dad? Where is he?"

"He's fine," Luke lied, "he's in New York."

"So he did alright in America then?" The man was unbelievable. Not an hour ago he'd humiliated Luke in front of the whole town and now he wanted to play happy families? No thanks.

"Made a mint in oil and railroad stocks."

"So how long are you staying for? Of course you'll come up and stay with us," the presumptuous fool said. Matt must have him mixed up with one of his fanatical worshippers.

"I've already got a place, I signed on with Mr. Blackwood." Luke swung up into the saddle before his uncle could argue. His plan didn't work though.

"You're not working for him?"

"Yeah I am." What right did this man have to tell him what to do?

"You don't have to do that. There's a place at Langara for as long as you want."

"No thanks."

"What's going on Luke?" Matt demanded, his friendly tone disappearing.

"Ride against me in the race and I might tell you." Luke said in a snippy fashion.

"What is so important about this race?" Matt implored.

"All my life I've been hearing about the Man from Snowy River and it turns out he doesn't even have the guts to get on a horse." Luke kicked his own horse and rode off. He hated that he'd come all this way for nothing.

xxx

Frank Blackwood was angry. Not just now but all the time. He was angry at his father for not thinking him worthy. He was angry at his sister for being their fathers favourite. He was angry a Matt McGregor for being so adored. And he was angry at Rob McGregor for being such an idiot. And now, at this particular moment in time, he was angry because his father had hired a McGregor to work for them. And not just any McGregor but a mean-looking, pistol toting, annoyingly handsome one. More competition was the last thing he needed. And now his horrible sister was baiting him.

"Luke's here for the race," she teased.

"Riding or watching?" he enquired after Rob's cousin.

"Riding," the self-assured American informed him. Frank glanced at his horse and the ridiculous saddle the poor creature was being forced to wear.

"In that saddle?" Frank sneered.

"That's right," the American replied, unfazed by Frank's taunt. Frank would have to step it up.

"What's that um, thing sticking up at the front for?"

"For me to hold onto so I don't fall off," the cowboy informed with hostility. It pissed Frank off. He didn't like people he couldn't boss around.

xxx

"Frank thinks he's going to win the race," Victoria told Luke in her snobbish manner. Luke watched her brother brushing his impressive horse as they approached. "Dad paid a hundred pounds for his horse." It was a nice horse.

"I came second last year," Franked informed him. "I'd've won if your bible bashing cousin hadn't cut me off." Luke appreciated that he really had found the best place in Patersons Ridge. These people were as disenchanted with The Man from Snowy River and his obnoxious brood as Luke was.

"Colin McGregor won it last year?"

"Yes. And the year before," Victoria gloated, purely to stir her bad tempered brother up.

"Is he racing this year?"

"No, but Robbie is." She turned maliciously towards her brother and added, "he's favourite to win." Luke didn't have time for their petty sibling rivalry, he had a race to prepare for.

"Could you show me where they run the race?" he appealed to Victoria, hoping her brother might find that inappropriate and intervene. The track must be dangerous, he needed a man to show him. He had no such luck as Frank didn't offer. Offended, Luke turned to the clueless man with a feral grin to rival Victoria's. "Cause I'm gonna win," he taunted. "Sorry Frank." He'd get the Balmoral heir's attention one way or another.

xxx

Kathleen was on a mission. She reined her horse to a stop outside the Langara homestead, marched up the steps and knocked loudly on the door. The second that insufferable Matt McGregor opened the door she let him have it. Just because she was a woman he thought he could push her around but he was wrong. He acted oh so reasonable but she knew he was a friend of the land inspector. Would he stop at nothing to evict an innocent widow and her child from their own home? He'd threatened her with troops and he'd damn well need to bring them if he thought he had any chance of getting her off her land. He'd picked a fight with the wrong woman.

xxx

Victoria led her horse amongst the herbs and boulders of the high country. With her was Luke McGregor. She still entertained the notion of pairing him up with Robbie and was using this opportunity whilst showing him the race course to learn more about him.

"Pretty country," Luke remarked as he admired the vast, mountainous landscape.

"Yes, it is." It was a start, Robbie loved this country too.

"Did you grow up around here?"

"I was away at boarding school most of the time."

"But you live here now?"

"Yes."

"You must get pretty bored..." It wouldn't hurt for Luke to be friendly with her. She no doubt thought he'd fancy her and if he humoured her it might mean less questions for him when he got to know her brother. He was the hired help after all; there wasn't really a reason for him to befriend his employer's son, unless people thought he was chasing Victoria. That was plausible. And besides that, maybe if he got close to her he could use their sibling rivalry to his advantage.

"To distraction."

"So what do you do for distraction?" The question threw Victoria. She couldn't be sure but she thought maybe he was coming onto her which wouldn't do at all. She needed to get his mind back on boyish things.

"So, that's the course. They start in town, ride up around the mountain and finish back where they began. One big circle."

"And that's it?" Luke hissed.

"That's it."

"Down the hillside at a racing pace he went, And he never drew the bridle 'til he landed safe and sound at the bottom of that terrible descent. I've been hearing that lousy poem my whole life! I thought it was about some heroic feat, it turns out to be about nothing! What terrible descent? A kid could do it!" Oh, this one was lovely. So full of fiery emotion, he was just what Robbie needed. Someone to shake his world up and add some spice to his life.

"No, this is where they run the race," she explained. "The track the other riders took. The original ride? Your uncle went down there." Oh yes he had. She drew Luke's attention to a near vertical hillside where that hunk of a man had tamed the impossible mountain with his infamous bravado on that long ago day. She watched as the true impressiveness of what Matt had done sunk into the reckless cowboys head.

xxx

Today was the day. The morning of the 25th Annual Man from Snowy River Horse Race dawned clear and fresh.

It was the day Luke was finally going to show Matt McGregor.

It was the day Robbie was finally going to win.

It was the day Frank was finally going to win his father's approval.

It was the day Danni was finally going to show her dad she was as capable as any son would be.

Robbie scolded his sister when he learned of her participation, but he couldn't blame her for wanting to be part of it.

"Hello Robbie." He looked up to see Victoria with her escort and immediately felt butterflies. He didn't understand his reaction to her. "I hope you boys aren't going to do anything silly today."

"I wouldn't call winning a race being silly," he replied confidently. Luke, who was wearing a red bandana today, gave him a smile and tipped his hat. Oddly, the butterflies grew more frantic.

xxx

"Alright gentlemen, on your horses!"

They mounted amidst an air of excitement and anticipation. Luke and Rob stood side by side, the latter glancing nervously at the former who was cool as a cucumber. Matt gave his son an encouraging smile, while Victoria appreciated how fine they looked together. Oliver acknowledged his highly-strung son with a nod and hoped the fool wouldn't embarrass him again this year. He damn well shouldn't, Oliver had paid a hundred pounds for his mount. Beside Frank, Oliver suddenly noticed someone far more interesting. Danni McGregor was riding today. He wouldn't put it past her to beat Frank and win, she was a sassy little thing.

Jack reminded them it was all for fun, what planet he was on none of the participants were sure, but fun was the last thing on their minds. Every single one of them had a prize in mind. The old man fired the starting shot and they were off!

They raced through the towering eucalypts, tearing up the mountain side. Rob and Luke sat in the middle of the pack, with Frank further behind, struggling to find space in the galloping mob. As they climbed higher Luke made a dash for the lead, Robbie hot on his tail, with Frank managing to gain a few places too. As they made the top of the ridge Luke hit the lead, with Robbie a close second. Across the grassy ridge the two pulled away for a decisive lead. When they dived back into the trees it was just the two of them. They fought for the lead, riding abreast on the narrow path, shouting at another to back off with neither willing to concede. Suddenly Rob's brown spooked at a goanna on the path and he took a nasty tumble down the terrible descent. Luke watched as his cousin rolled down the mountainside, while the other riders streamed past him oblivious to the unfolding drama. He watched them go, and he too had to go now if he wanted any chance to claim victory. Then Matt was rounding the bend, and pulling up next to him on the grey. One look at his son was all it took.

"Yah!" Matt urged his horse over the brink and without a thought Luke followed him.

Luke leaned back hard in the saddle, letting his horse choose the path while he concentrated on staying in the saddle. Matt rode just ahead of him down the descent, enraging Luke as branches whipped him in the face. He could not let Matt win. Possessed by this madness he whipped his steed, urging him on faster down the steep mountainside. Luke hit the bottom of the slope a length ahead of the famed horseman.

Robbie pulled himself to feet, relieved not to have broken his neck. A grunt from his horse drew his attention and he saw that the animal had not been so lucky. Plans of putting it down were pushed aside however when he looked up and saw two riders barrelling down the mountain. On the grey was his father, but there beside him, every inch as capable a horseman was Luke. The surly American had come to his rescue. Robbie's elation was undeniable.

"You okay?" the impressive young man asked.

"Yeah..." Robbie replied dreamily, but then suddenly his father was there, breaking the spell. "I'm alright Dad," he insisted despite his aches, pains, cuts and bruises.

"Pretty silly thing to do huh?" Matt sighed with relief.

To the side Luke took a moment to glance up the terrible descent. The terrible descent that he and Matt had just conquered. That he had just reached the bottom of first. Luke was stunned, he'd done it. He had just proved he was more than a match for The Man from Snowy River.

xxx

Danni urged her horse on, glancing back to see a frightfully determined Frank Blackwood hot on her hammer.

Oliver craned over the railing, eager to see who the victor would be.

Colin ceased his wild clapping, noting that neither his brother nor cousin were amongst the riders.

Hooves pounded over the finish line and it was Danni McGregor who was victorious.

Frank Blackwood couldn't believe it. Second again. He looked to his father, holding out hope that this would be good enough, he should've known better.

Victoria couldn't care less who'd won, all she knew was that Robbie and Luke were missing. Something must've gone terribly wrong.

xxx

Frank Blackwood was really angry. He led his hundred pound, bag of useless horseflesh towards the stables. On the way he passed the cocky American, who was looking far too pleased with himself.

"What are you smirking about?"

"I'm not smirking about anything," the smirky prick who clearly was smirking smirked.

"You think it's funny a girl beat me?" Frank questioned on the edge of hysteria.

"What girl?" Maybe Frank had his wires crossed, maybe the new stockman wasn't making fun of him?

"Danni McGregor," he admitted.

"Yeah that is funny."

"Oh you think so?" Frank said menacingly, taking a step closer.

"Yeah, 'cause I just beat her father."

"No you didn't." He couldn't have, how much more humiliation could Frank take? And his father? This would make the old man's scorn even worse. The American just had to be lying. Luke stood up and came to stand in front of Frank, flicking his head cockily before speaking.

"Yes, I did."

Frank scoffed, determined to take the American down a peg or two.

"I heard Jack Kelly talking...McGregor reined in. He let you get there first." Ha! That wiped the smile of the smarmy bastards face.

"No he didn't." Frank heard the note of uncertainty in Luke's voice and pressed on. "As soon as he saw Rob was alright, he slowed down and let you beat him."

"No." Oh how the tables had turned, now it was Franks turn to smirk.

"It's true, and you didn't match him anyway. In the original ride he was cracking a stock whip all the way down. Could you have done that?"

xxx

Rob was sitting down to dinner with his father and sister.

"So, what's this about Michael O'Neil winning the race? Michael O'Neil doesn't even own a horse."

"I thought you'd be mad at me."

"Well I am...but I'm proud too. Congratulations love." Thankfully there was a knock at the door, Robbie couldn't watch anymore of the sickening favouritism. He pulled the door open to reveal an irate Luke. He stormed past Rob in a blind rage.

"You cheated me! You reined in, you threw it, you let me win." The volatile horseman accused.

"Nah, nah you beat me."

"No, I didn't. But I could have. And you know what? My father could have to! He was as good as you."

"He was better than me."

"Don't play with me! Alright! You robbed him of everything he had."

"What are you talking about? He's my brother!"

"He was your brother. He's dead." Robbie was sorry to hear that, and he felt for Luke. The loneliness he must feel... "He was never rich, he was a down and out drunk. All his life all he ever talked about was his famous little brother, but he was as good as you. He never got the chance to prove that but I will."

"Look Luke, there's a place for ya here," Matt offered despite his nephew's hostility.

"What?" Suddenly Robbie found himself secretly hoping Luke would reject the offer. He wanted Luke to stay strong, to not bend to his father's will like everyone else did. "I'll never sleep in this house until I own it!" Robbie couldn't be sorry when Luke stormed out then, pushing past him like he didn't even exist, blinded as he was by his hatred of Rob's father, because he'd been true to himself.

xxx

Oliver sat smugly beside the land inspector as he ordered the O'Neil woman off his land. About time. This was a problem he didn't need. His satisfaction was short-lived though when that meddling Matt McGregor showed up with a herd of cattle. What the bloody hell was he thinking? Small time landholders were going to be the ruination of agriculture in this country.

"What's this?"

"Oh, just delivering the cattle Michael O'Neil won in the race."

"Looks as though the place is stocked," the droll inspector observed. Oliver couldn't argue with that. He wouldn't let this slide though, and McGregor had added to the insult by using Oliver's own stock against him.

"I'm not gonna forget this. C'mon McGregor," he called to his newest stockman, taking a small amount of satisfaction from having one McGregor on a leash. "We've got work to do." If Matt wanted to make this personal, then personal it would be.

xxx

"Thank-you Mr. McGregor but I won't take your charity," the fiery redhead declined.

"Oh it's got nothing to do with me." Matt smiled and if they gave out ribbons for most charming smile Matt would win. He was sure of it. And this whole thing with using Oliver's own stock against him was a stroke of genius if The Man from Snowy River did say so himself.

"I'd like you to have them Mrs. O'Neil," his daughter chimed in.

"Thank-you Danny but I can't accept yours either."

"Well it's not charity, it's a business deal," Matt smugly countered. "Let Danny run the cattle on your land and in payment you can have the first year's calves," he offered cleverly. Kathleen had sass. Matt thought having her as an ally might work to his advantage one day, and so he had orchestrated this little coo on her behalf. He wasn't going to let her stubbornness ruin his plans.

"It's a deal. Thank-you Matt."

"You're welcome Kathleen," he replied, taking the liberty of using her first name too and giving her another award winning smile.

xxx

Luke watched the happy family from afar. It was horseshit. Why did they deserve to be so happy when his own family had been so miserable? Watching them laugh together made him hate them all the more. Matt had offered him a place in that family but he would never accept. He would never forgive his uncle for the way his father had been treated. He knew then that he would do everything in his power to undermine Matt and ultimately ruin his idyllic life. For his dad, ruining Matt's perfect family, was the least he could do.

AN: So there it is. Every word of the dialogue in this chapter comes directly from the show. That will change in future chapters as I begin to develop my own versions of the relationships between characters but I expect the story will still pretty much follow the plot of the show. Thanks for reading :)