Neal is an obstetrician. I know, not what you’d expect a former car thief to end up in as his profession. It was kind of a long story, and funny enough involves a stolen car and his girlfriend, soon to be fiancé, Emma Swan. Well hopefully fiancé. He hadn’t asked her yet, but the ring box was burning a hole in his pocket so badly Neal was sure he was going to have to get Dr Whale to treat him for second degree burns.
It was a little over 10 years ago, and Neal and Emma had been living in their makeshift home that was the infamous yellow bug. Life had been pretty amazing for the two of them, on the road, no strings to hold them down…they ate what they wanted, when they wanted, slept for days if they desired or stayed up for 3 days straight eating Cheetos and burgers. Life was pretty great for the two of them, living a carefree and reckless existence, until the stick turned pink. Being young, and stupid, and young, and REALLY stupid, Neal and Emma thought that they had everything under control. Yes they could live their idealised life, freedom and all, AND have a baby! Not a problem! They had 40 weeks to live out their last days of being kids and then they would smarten up, take the money from their last heist and settle down to raise their kid. And like the young and foolish kids they were, they left everything to the last minute. Emma was days to her due date, when the two decided to have one last hurrah and sped off on a road trip. And, like their impatient parents, the baby decided it was time to join in on the fun. And, just like their risky lifestyle, their risky car broke down.
They were hours from any kind of hospital, and the paramedic on the phone did his best to assure Neal that an ambulance would reach them in no time. Emma was fuming, this was all Neal’s fault that they were stuck in the middle of nowhere and their child was going to be born in a Volkswagen Beetle. It became clear quite quickly that the baby was going to beat the ambulance, and suddenly Neal found himself being coached by the 9-11 operator on how to deliver a baby. Some screaming, swearing, and angry slapping later, baby Henry came into the world- by the side of their beloved yellow beetle. And just like that, Neal’s world had changed.
In an instant, holding his son for the first time and witnessing his life beginning, Neal found a new purpose in himself. The awe of what he had witnessed, of not only bringing a life into the world but helping someone in this most treasured moment, it was like a bolt of electricity hit him. This was what he was supposed to do, this was how he could help others.
And so, a reckless teenager who delivered his son next to their stolen car turned his life around. He grew up into the man we begin this story with today, Doctor Neal Cassidy, licensed and practicing obstetrician. He had delivered hundreds of babies, and was proud of every single one of them. But none so more than the one that started it all. His freckly, scruffy haired 9 year old who loves reading and exploring.
Funny enough, explaining to his father that he wanted to be an obstetrician was harder to explain than the reason Neal had run off at 16, and returned two years later with a tired girlfriend and a screaming baby. But, under his father’s steely glare and uncharismatic composure, Neal knew his papa and he had welcomed them into their home. After some intense arguing and a fragile reconciliation, the four of them became a somewhat functional family. His father adored Henry, and supported Neal through college and medical school. He even helped Emma find her path in the world, through his law firm he helped her become a private investigator- a field Emma shined in.
After years and years of supporting their family, Neal and Emma decided to give back to the cranky old man who pretended he loved no one, but was as soft as a marshmallow. They surprised him with an all-expense paid cruise trip around Europe. At first he protested, what was a lawyer going to do on a cruise ship? Neal was also sceptic of sending his hobby-less father onto a cruise, but Emma insisted to a point of threatening. And 8 weeks later, Neal’s father returned a new man. He had a spring in his step like Neal had never seen, he was almost…happy.
It had been some time after that, Neal asked his father about proposing to Emma- expecting a cynical response- who joyfully exclaimed that it was about damn time Neal asked. And so, for two weeks the ring box had been in Neal’s pocket…and waiting for the perfect moment. But the perfect moment hadn’t shown up yet. Neal was sure he wanted to marry Emma, why not? They were practically already married, they lived together, they had a child, surely it wasn’t the craziest idea in the world.
Neal found himself pondering and pondering this all throughout a murky day at Storybrooke General. It was a slow day- only one mother to be- and unfortunately it gave him plenty of time to think. Maybe Emma didn’t want to get married, traditional had never really been her style.
Neal had an epiphany, and marched over to the nurse’s station. Ruby was manning the desk, and thankfully not a sole in sight. Ruby can help him out, she had known Emma and Neal for years. As Neal got closer, he groaned, she wasn’t alone. Ruby was standing and chatting to someone seated across from her, out of Neal’s sight. Maybe it was just Ashley, as long as it wasn’t Dr Whale- the man was a terrible gossip.
“Ruby! I need your advice and I need it like your drinks- straight and honest!” He sighed and plopped his head onto the desk, awaiting her sound opinion.
“Well…maybe you shouldn’t be asking me, maybe you should tell her” Ruby chipped, and Neal raised his head and grimaced.
“Who now?” he asked, and Ruby smiled cheekily and moved out of the way, so that Neal could see who she had been talking to.
“Belle?! Belle!” Neal exclaimed and his grimace turned into a wide grin. Sitting under the desk, was a sight for sore eyes, Nurse Belle French. Belle was the first friendly face Neal had met at this hospital. Her kind, blue eyes and shining brown hair had been his only friend through the rough first month. She had been his best friend ever since.
“It’s good to see you, Neal!”
“Where the hell have you been? It’s been a doghouse here since you left.”
“Hey!” Ruby retorted, and Neal frowned at her with a scowl.
“I went on a sabbatical, I guess you could call it…And I somehow ended up being a nurse on a cruise ship for about 6 months.”
“That sounds crazy! I cannot wait to hear all about it over some well-earned drinks,” Neal proclaimed and held out an inviting hand to Belle. He retreated his hand when he saw her hesitate.
“As long as the drinks are orange juice, because….” Belle paused and stood up, and Neal felt his eyebrows rise up into his hairline, as a large and familiar shaped belly popped up into view.
“…I’ve been having virgin drinks for about 9 months now,” Belle laughed, and Neal shook his head in disbelief.
“How did you not tell me?! You’re pregnant!” Neal ran around the desk and hugged his best friend, simultaneously ecstatic and alarmed.
“Oh, you know, I had my whole ‘you can do it on your own mantra’ going on, but then I realised I miss you…I missed this place. And it’s where I want my child to grow up,” Belle explained, and Neal just beamed.
“I’m so happy for you, Belle” Neal breathed, and the two locked eyes in mutual excitement. Until….
There was a splash, and Belle’s eyes widened.
“Uh oh…” Belle whispered, and Neal looked down.
“Uh oh, indeed” Neal confirmed. The two looked at each other frantically and realised what was about to happen.
The ring box in Neal’s pocket was the last thing he was thinking about now.
Some hours later, Belle was in labour and being coached along by her former co-workers, and everyone found it highly hilarious. By nightfall, it was just Neal and Belle laughing and caching up. Until, Neal knew he had to ask the hard question.
“Belle, who’s the father?” Neal looked up at her, and Belle was suddenly fascinated with the creases in her sheets. Eventually, she looked up.
“It wasn’t anything serious, it was just…. caught in the moment. We had too much to drink, too much dancing and it was….it was a perfect night. I’d never been so happy” Belle reminisced, lost in her memories.
“Sounds like a charmer, why didn’t you tell him you were pregnant?” Neal asked, and Belle shook her head.
“It was a perfect night. Singular. He wouldn’t have wanted to know, he was older, already had a grown-up child, I couldn’t put him through that again, and I have no idea what the man is actually like. Besides…I’m good at doing things on my own,” Belle piped up, wiping away a tear. Neal grabbed her hand and squeezed it tight.
“Well, too bad you’re stuck with me then,” Neal joked, and Belle laughed.
Soon enough, Belle was squeezing Neal’s hand so tight that he thought she was going to break his fingers.
“Hey, Hey, Belle maybe ease off on that I still have to deliver your baby” Neal squirmed free of her grip as Belle continued to scream.
“OK I KNOW I AGREED AND WE ARE ALL ADULTS AND DOCTORS BUT NEAL ITS REALLY WEIRD THAT YOU’RE GOING TO BE SEEING MY-“
“And there’s the baby’s head, okay! Too bad Belle, this show is on the road and I’m all you got” Neal exclaimed and snapped on some gloves.
“Why don’t you tell me a bit more about this fella, huh Belle? What did he look like?” Neal chimed, trying to distract Belle from the pain.
“He was…short, he had greying hair and ARHHH! A nice SMILE!!”
“Doing good, Belle doing good! You said he was a good dancer right? What was his style?”
“He wasn’t that great...he had uh- OW OW- a limp…and a…cane!”
Neal froze. And looked up at Belle.
“With a golden head?” Neal asked with wide eyes, and soon enough, Belle too followed suit with a daunting look on her face. It suddenly dawned on Neal, how long Belle had been gone…and how long ago his father had gone off on that cruise…
“What was his name?” Neal hushed, really afraid of what Belle’s answer was going to be, and what that meant for their current situation. Belle’s jaw dropped as they both answered at the same time with…
The two didn’t have another second to react when, with one final scream and push, Neal held a tiny, red faced newborn in his hands.
Neal sighed, and went about his business, like he had done a hundred times before, but this time was definitely like no other. He wrapped the baby in a blanket and placed it in Belle’s waiting arms.
“It’s a boy…”
And it’s his brother.