Before the First Curse
In one of the Enchanted Forest's villages, a couple, Rumplestiltskin and Milah, make their living by spinning wool. Rumplestiltskin is drafted into the ogre war, and Milah, though afraid for her husband's safety, gives her blessings for him to fight on the battlefield. In the months Rumplestiltskin spends in a camp training to be a soldier, he encounters a seer that can predict the future. She uses her abilities to proclaim Milah's impending pregnancy and birth of their son but also forewarns of a greater dark coming in Rumplestiltskin's destiny. The Seer states he will become a father, but also lose his son due to his actions on the battlefield. Rumplestiltskin takes this to mean he will die, and purposely injuries his foot so he can be sent home.
Upon arrival home, Rumplestiltskin sees Milah tending to their infant son in her arms. She says she named him Baelfire as he needs a strong name for a father such as him. Their marriage begins to get rocky from the moment Rumplestiltskin tries to explain about the seer and the prophecy, which Milah thinks is absurd. She is humiliated that her husband is such a coward to run away from war, and firmly believes if he had fought and died, their son could have at least an immortalized image of how brave he was instead of Rumplestiltskin being alive and a deserter.
As the years go by, Milah grows to be quite disinterested in playing housewife to Rumplestiltskin, and spends her days at the tavern bar. Rumplestiltskin returns home one day to find Baelfire all alone without his mother. He goes to the tavern to look for Milah, and finds her having a drink with a pirate, Hook, and his men. Milah refuses to leave, however, when Baelfire calls out for her, she gets up to leave for home.
Milah is very unhappy with the life she leads, and wishes to explore and see the world. Rumplestiltskin still hopes she will try to be family for Baelfire, at least. She reluctantly agrees to try. The next day, however, she turns up missing, and is kidnapped by Hook. Rumplestiltskin tries to get her back by pleading with Hook, but nothing comes out of it when Rumplestiltskin refuses to sword fight.
Before Rumplestiltskin became the powerful sorcerer he is today, Baelfire was his only family and greatest treasure. Just a few days away from Baelfire's fourteenth birthday, all the children in the land are being forcefully drafted to fight in an Ogre War upon turning fourteen.
To prevent his son from being taken, Rumplestiltskin slays Zoso, "The Dark One", taking on his powers in an effort to be able to protect Baelfire. He brutally kills all the soldiers who attempt to recruit Baelfire, an act he relished in, which terrifies his son.
Later, his father ends the Ogre Wars and saves thousands of children's lives, but people are afraid of him and Baelfire wants things to go back to the way they were. Rumplestiltskin and Baelfire make a deal: if Baelfire can find a way for Rumplestiltskin to safely give up his powers, Rumplestiltskin will do it. Baelfire's friend Morraine tells him about the Reul Ghorm she heard of during war from eavesdropping on other soldiers. Baelfire goes and finds the Reul Ghorm, which turns out to be the Blue Fairy. She gives him a magic bean to take him and his father to a "land without magic".
Baelfire takes his father into the woods and uses the magic bean, which creates a green, glowing portal. Rumplestiltskin is afraid of going to a place without magic or his powers, and backs out of the deal at the last moment. He lets go of his Baelfire, who calls him a coward before disappearing into the portal.
Rumplestiltskin then calls for the Blue Fairy to help him get to his son, but it is no use as that was the last magic bean and he chose power over his only son. This has caused Rumplestiltskin to hate fairies, especially the Blue Fairy, because he blames her for taking away Baelfire, while she declares he was the one who drove off his own son.
After his father lets go of his hand, Baelfire falls through the portal into a land without magic, and is afraid and confused in the new world he is in.
He wanders the streets searching for leftover bits of food. When he sees a man has propped a ladder against a wall leading up into a house, he takes the opportunity and climbs in. Inside one room, Baelfire finds a table with bread and proceeds to gorge on it to satisfy his hunger. One of the residents of the a house, a young girl, thinks he is a thief, but then realizes he's starving. Kindly, she offers him to take as much bread as he likes. After an introduction, Baelfire learns her name is Wendy. She takes pity on him and hides him in her nursery room's cubby-hole, and for weeks, sneaks up food for him. One night, her parents learn of the secret. Though Wendy tries to speak up in Baelfire's favor, her mother won't hear of it. Thinking he is going to be thrown out onto the streets, both he and Wendy are surprised when her mother offers him the chance to stay in their house as a guest.
Baelfire joins Wendy and her two brothers, John and Michael, in the nursery and gets his own bed and nightstand there. One night, he awakens and notices Wendy at the window seat. She tells him about "The Shadow" she always sees outside the window, and how it moves akin to a puppet in shadow; like magic. Baelfire doesn't like hearing about magic, and explains how magic destroyed his whole life, and he won't have it destroying her family, too. He makes her promise that if the Shadow comes again, she won't open the window for it.
Despite his warning to Wendy, she cannot contain her curiosity and opens the window. The Shadow flies down close to the window, and Baelfire urges Wendy to get away from it. Unafraid, Wendy takes the Shadow's hand and together they fly off into the sky while Baelfire can only watch in horror. He stays by the window seat and eventually falls asleep. In the morning, Wendy is brought back by the Shadow. She tells him of her adventures in a place called Neverland, and though it's a beautiful and fun place to be, there is one catch. She is disturbed by how, when night falls in Neverland, the other children begin to miss their parents and want to go home, but the Shadow won't let anyone leave. When Baelfire wonders why the Shadow allowed her to return home, Wendy mournfully explains it's because the Shadow wants a boy, not a girl, to bring to Neverland, and is coming back to get one of her brothers. Baelfire vows to her that he will put a stop to it.
The next night, Baelfire, Wendy, John and Michael arm themselves with kitchen utensils as alternative weapons against the Shadow. They move their plan into action when the Shadow breaks open the window. All of them run into the cubby-hole to hide, but Michael gets left behind and is within reach of the Shadow's grasp. Baelfire hurries to protect Michael, and insists to the Shadow he take him instead. He willingly accepts the Shadow's hand, and is pulled up and out the window by it as Wendy and her brothers can only watch as he disappears into the sky.
The Shadow flies Baelfire over the sea, and they are quickly approaching the island of Neverland. Baelfire stubbornly refuses to accept it, and lights a match to ward the Shadow off with fire. As a result, the Shadow lets him go and he falls into the ocean. The Shadow attempts to search for him, but cannot see where Baelfire fell, and eventually flies off back to Neverland. A ship approaches, and accidentally shines its light on where Baelfire is floating face down in the water. The crew throw a rope and reel him in aboard. Sputtering and confused, Baelfire wakes up to meet the ship's captain, Hook, and one of his crew mates, William Smee. Hook and Bae bond for a time but in the end he's betrayed and sold to the lost boys.
Rumplestiltskin's maid, Belle, mentions finding children's old clothes in one of the rooms she was cleaning in the castle, which Rumplestiltskin says belong to his son.
During the First Curse
In order to be able to go to the same place Baelfire went, Rumplestiltskin created the Dark Curse. Even though the curse succeeded in transporting him to "a land without magic," he has made no progress, having been trapped in Storybrooke for the last 28 years. Because the inhabitants of Storybrooke cannot leave the town without losing their memories, Mr. Gold has still been unable to mount his expedition to find Baelfire.
Baelfire is still a driving force for Mr. Gold, as he confesses to Belle he is using magic to try and find a loophole around not losing his memories when he leaves town. In this aspect, he can travel outside of Storybrooke and still look for his son.
Neal and Emma Swan met in Portland when they both unknowingly were trying to steal the same car. They quickly fell in love and began traveling through the country together and running some cons to make money. They planned on retiring from their crime life and living together in Tallahassee but in order to do that they first had to retrieve stolen watches that Neal had previously hidden in a train station. While Emma picks up the watches, Neal is confronted by August Booth who tells him that he knows who he really is. After that, he tells him about Emma's magical history and convinces him to turn Emma in to the police so she can fulfill her destiny. After Emma is arrested, he runs away to Canada, where he sells the watches. He asks August to send all the money plus their car to Emma, and asks August that if Emma ever fulfills her duty to please send him a postcard. Unknown to him, Emma is pregnant with his son.
After the First Curse
Presently, Neal resides in New York City, where, shortly after Emma Swan breaks the curse in Storybrooke, he receives a postcard delivered by a dove. One side of the postcard reads, "Broken", and the other is a photo of the Storybrooke Clock Tower with the phrase "Greetings from Storybrooke", which was sent to him by August.
Using a magical globe Cora brought him, and a drop of his own blood, Mr. Gold finds out Baelfire's current location: New York City.
Shortly thereafter, Mr. Gold calls on Emma to use the favor she owes him. The next day, she and Henry join him when he leaves for New York.
Emma goes with Mr. Gold to Manhattan to find Baelfire. She brings along Henry because she does not trust her son to be in Storybrooke while Cora on the loose. They arrive via taxi to Manhattan in front of an apartment complex building, and enter the building to find a locked gate with a call box listing all the residents and their room numbers on the wall next to it. Searching through the list, Mr. Gold does not recognize any as a possible name for Baelfire. Emma steps up to the call box and picks apartment room 407, which she notices has no name on it, and has a hunch it is a person who does not want to be found. She pretends to be delivering a UPS package for room 407, but no buzzer rings for the apartment complex door to open. They hear someone coming down the fire escape, and rush outside in time to see a hooded person jumping down and running away from the building. Mr. Gold tells Emma that he is sure that person is his son and that she must get him to talk to him due to the favor she owes him which he is using now. After tailing the hooded person through the streets, Emma eventually tackles him to the ground. They both get up at the same time, and she is shocked to see Neal was the person she chased.
Neal, not wanting to have a confrontation in the middle of the street, pleads for Emma and him to go somewhere private so he can explain what is going on. He succeeds in getting Emma to a nearby bar where he reveals that he is, in fact, Baelfire and they discuss their past. Neal makes note of the fact she is still wearing the necklace he gave her, but Emma takes it off just then and hands it back to him. He suggests that they go their separate ways and that she tell Mr. Gold she lost him. Although Emma agrees, Neal decides to go back to his apartment, as he knows what his father does to people who break deals with him. He furiously stops Mr. Gold from threatening Emma and commands him to leave, but is confused when Henry comes into the room as he does not know the boy. He begins to have a suspicion when Emma states Henry is her son. Neal demands to know how old he is, and Henry says he is eleven years old; which is the exact amount of years since he and Emma were together. He realizes the boy is his son. Mr. Gold blackmails Neal into talking with him as that is the only way to fulfill Emma's bargain. Neal tells Mr. Gold that Baelfire never got closure, so neither will he either. Neal suggests to Emma that they both try to get over the past and be there for their son.
Some time later, Neal is trying to build a relationship with Henry by introducing him to New York-style pizza and promising to take him to a museum. Neal tries to tell Emma something, but their conversation is interrupted. While waiting in the lobby of Neal's apartment building, Mr. Gold is suddenly attacked by Hook, who sailed his invisible ship to New York. To everyone's surprise, Neal admits that he is already acquainted with Hook. Mr. Gold tells Emma that the wound inflicted on him by Hook contains poison and the only way to cure him is with magic in Storybrooke.
Realizing that Hook's ship is the fastest way to get back, Neal admits that he knows how to pilot Hook's ship, and arranges for a ride to the harbor. When Emma asks how he knows Hook and how to pilot a pirate ship, Neal evasively says that the land without magic was not the first world he arrived in, because if it had been, he would have been over 300 years old by now. When they arrive next to a large car, Emma thinks Neal is going to hot wire it, but Neal has the keys. Just then, a woman walks over unexpectedly and greets Neal happily. She introduces herself as Tamara to Emma, and Neal introduces her to Emma as his fiancée.
Neal pilots the Jolly Roger from New York to Storybrooke with the aid of Henry. While en route, Emma telephones David and Mary Margaret, to fill them in on what has happened. David explains to them that Cora and Regina have possession of the dagger that can be used to control Rumplestiltskin, Mr. Gold's magical self. They arrive at Mr. Gold's pawn shop, and once inside, Mr. Gold gives a piece of magic invisible chalk to Emma and tells her to draw a magic barrier across the door with the chalk.
Neal jokes around with Emma; saying that he did not know she could use magic, and Emma responds that he did not tell her about Tamara; not to mention that he is the son of Rumplestiltskin. When Cora and Regina reach the shop they use magic to break the barrier, and end up battling Neal, Mary Margaret, David and Emma. Cora and Regina are easily able to eject David is thrown out of the shop. Emma proceeds to draw another barrier with the chalk, protecting them for a little longer. Neal sits in the backroom with his father and Emma, and after he overhears his father's conversation with his girlfriend Belle, he realizes his father is capable of loving someone and actually does love him. Before they can finish this conversation, Cora breaks through the barrier, and transports Neal and Emma out into the middle of the forest to get them out of the way so she can confront with Mr. Gold.
After Cora's death, Mr. Gold visits the apartment to warn them about what Regina has planned for Mary Margaret. Henry is horrified about their possible plans to kill Regina to end the feud. Emma takes Henry to the diner where Neal hangs out with him. He orders him a nice dessert, but Henry knows Neal is in on trying to sweeten him up so he does not try to get involved with Regina. Neal asks Henry to move to New York with him. Henry agrees, and then goes to the bathroom. Emma comes back to check up on them, and is incredulous that Neal fell for the "I'm going to the bathroom" trick; especially since Henry took his backpack with him. They try to catch up with him, and get to the mines with help from Ruby and realize Henry took dynamite to blow up the wishing well and be rid of magic. They hurry off to the well, and almost have a heated battle with Regina, but Henry manages to get everyone to stop. Henry convinces Regina to not use the spell on him, and she willingly burns the paper.
Henry and Emma arrive at Neal's place, where Henry asks if Neal could read the book to which Neal agrees and requests that Henry go to Granny's Diner and order three hot cocoas. Henry goes off to do that, and Emma says that she will not be staying. Neal tells her that Hook has escaped from the storage closet, and also that his girlfriend Tamara is coming to Storybrooke. Emma gets worried, with another outsider in town, and tells Neal that he should tell Tamara his true identity. Emma stays when Tamara arrives with bagels. Tamara seems very nice, and upon Henry asking, Tamara tells the story of how she and Neal met, mentioning that he ran into her on her way to work and knocked her coffee all over her blouse. Neal offered her his scarf and said that she could either keep the scarf or call him, and she decided to call him, and they hit it off. When Henry and Emma leave, Neal shows Tamara the Book and tells her about his life in the Enchanted Forest, stating that all the fairytales in the book are real. Tamara, unfortunately, does not believe him and accuses him of still being in love with Emma. Tamara leaves his apartment, telling him that when he's ready to tell her the truth, than he can find her.
Neal witnesses a completely wooden August dies in the arms Marco with his last words warning Emma about "her". After Mother Superior arrives and transforms August back into Pinocchio, Tamara arrives to witnesses the power of fairy magic, and tells Neal that she believes him. Tamara gets nervous when Emma tries to question Pinocchio about what August was trying to warn them about, but is relieved when he cannot remember. She tells Neal that she is here for him, and she loves him.
Mr. Gold watches Neal and Henry practicing sword fighting with wooden swords, when Regina approaches Gold and asks what Gold's son is doing with hers. Gold tells her that Neal is Henry's father, much to Regina's shock. Regina believes that Gold planned all this, but he tells her that it was fate.
Emma and Henry continue their now "altered" operation, Operation Praying Mantis. They hide in Emma's yellow VW bug, and hide as they see Neal and Tamara coming out of the bed and breakfast.
Emma and Henry break into Neal and Tamara's guest room, as Emma harbors a suspicion Tamara is up to something. Neal returns to the room, and finds Henry guarding the door outside. He comes in to see Emma pry open a loose floorboard in an attempt to find evidence. Emma tells Neal she is suspicious of Tamara and she is possibly the person August was warning them about, also adding in that Tamara has a list of all the Storybrooke residents and their true identities, to which Neal replies that it was he who gave her the list. He wanted Tamara to come to grips with this place and his identity. Neal asks Emma whether her reluctant behavior is due to Tamara being in Storybrooke, and her presence being a hard adjustment. Emma denies it and leaves with Henry.
Neal awakens in bed to see Tamara dressed and ready to go on a marathon training run. He tries to persuade her to sleep in, but she reasons the training is necessary so she can be prepared for the upcoming marathon. Emma confronts Neal with the news Regina is missing and goes back to pointing the finger at Tamara. Neal is still very much in disbelief even when Emma notices sand on the floor left by Tamara's shoes, which indicate she has not recently been running in the woods but near the beach. He follows Emma along to the shoreline where Tamara casually jogs up. She explains to Neal the reason for her change of jogging spots from the woods to the beach; an answer that satisfies him but does not keep Emma's guard from lowering. After Tamara resumes her run, Neal tries to be sympathetic to the difficult time Emma is having in his fiancée being in town. Emma fights against his accusations that she is in any way jealous of his current relationship. When she tries to walk away, he spills out the truth about wanting to go back for her when she went to jail in his place. Neal admits he truly wished he did, but was too scared to face Emma thinking she might never forgive him as he never forgave himself for leaving her.
Emma receives a lead of Regina's whereabouts from David after Mary Margaret, with the help of Mr. Gold, forges a bodily connection with Regina and briefly sees and feels everything she does. David mentions Mary Margaret could smell sardines, which helps Emma realize Regina must be trapped in the town fish cannery. Neal and Emma enter and regroup with David and Mary Margaret. While Emma's parents rush forward to secure and clear further rooms in the cannery, Neal and Emma lag behind and cautiously walk the halls. David catches Greg Mendell as the culprit behind Regina's kidnapping. When he runs, David warns Emma via phone to be on the lookout for Greg as he is trying to escape the building. Neal is relieved to hear Tamara has nothing to do with it, but his ease turns to horror when Emma unexpectedly is knocked out unconscious by her. Neal is in shock at the betrayal and lies. Tamara fully admits to lying about everything since the day they met. Though she thinks he is a good man, her job is more important. She shoots Neal in the abdomen and apologizes for the action when Emma gets up to kick the pistol out of Tamara's hands. Just as Emma makes a grab for the gun, Tamara distracts them by throwing a magic bean and opening up a portal. Emma almost falls into it, but is pulled up by Neal. Then, their roles are reversed and Neal ends up being the one clinging onto Emma to keep from falling into the portal. He urges her to let go, but Emma stubbornly refuses; stating whatever world he ends up in he'll likely die from the gun wound. Terrified of losing him, she confesses her genuine love for Neal. He reciprocates the same feelings back and lets go to be sucked into the closing portal.
After Neal discovers Emma is in Neverland, he uses the Shadow to travel there, rescuing Henry from his sinister grandfather, Peter Pan, and returning to Storybrooke. After Pan enacts the original curse again, Neal, along with the other inhabitants are consumed by the curse and returned to their original worlds.
Before the Second Curse
In the Enchanted Forest, Neal and Belle visit Rumplestiltskin's castle and are located to the Dark One's vault. Neal unlocks the vault, resurrecting Rumplestiltskin but sacrificing himself. Before he dies, Rumplestiltskin takes his body and merges it with his own. After Zelena, the Wicked Witch of the West informs Rumplestiltskin that a new curse is coming, Neal temporarily splits from his father's body and sends a dose of memory potion to Hook to help Emma break the curse back in Storybrooke.
During the Second Curse
Back in Storybrooke after the second Dark Curse, Emma finds Neal trapped within Mr. Gold, thus causing him to lose his mind. Neal asks for Emma to free Gold to defeat Zelena though he will die; she reluctantly agrees.
Neal was later mentioned by Henry when he chats with the Apprentice. The Apprentice tells Henry that the powers of the Author can't bring back to life anyone who has died outside their world.
After the Third Curse
- “I love you, Emma. I always have and always will.”
- ―Neal says a final goodbye to Emma
While Emma is on the boat to the Underworld, Neal appears to her in a vision, asking her how Henry is and warning her against going to the Underworld. He tells her that it is a dangerous place that is difficult to leave, and shouldn't risk it knowing that she is going there out of her love for Hook. Emma tells him that she would have gone after Neal as well if she knew that she could and will look for him too. Neal lets her know, however, that she won't find him as he is not in the Underworld. She asks him if Hook is there, and he reluctantly tells her the he is. Emma asks Neal to help her. He simply tells her that the Underworld is like Limbo, a place where the souls of those with unfinished business end up, which is why Neal isn't there. She asks Neal where he is. He ensures her that he's in a better place, a place that makes him happy. After warning her as best he could, Neal reasserts to Emma that he loves her and always will before he leaves, kissing her on the forehead, Emma pleads with him to stay, but awakens on the boat in her parents arms.
While in the Underwold, Emma discovers that Henry has been searching for Neal. Emma informs Henry that they won't find him in down in Underbooke, telling him of the meeting she had with Neal. She ensures her son that his father, just as Neal ensured her, is in a better place, and that his love for the two of them is always with them.