Six years later…
Neal smiled as he watched the scene before him.
His little girl, turning four that day, ran to and from the porch, her blonde hair flipping around her shoulders as she grabbed things to place into the wagon parked in front of the house.
A few blankets and towels, a picnic basket and several sand toys were being piled into the red wheeled device.
She spun around after placing the last shovel into the wagon, her sundresses twirling with her and grinned brightly. "That's all of it, Daddy!" She ran the short distance to meet him at the porch, stopping at his feet and bouncing up and down excitedly. "Can we go now, please?"
She flashed another wide grin, batting her eyelashes and for the millionth time Neal was struck by how much she really looked like her mother.
Neal chuckled and reached out to play with the curls falling at her shoulders careful to avoid the pretty green bow on the top of her head.
"It's almost time, Mar. We're still waiting on Mommy, Henry and Jake to be ready."
Mary Cassidy sighed dramatically and peered around her father's legs into the open doorway to the house to try and get a glimpse of the rest of their family.
"Why do they take so long?" Mary wondered, leaning with a huff against Neal's legs.
"Jake was being a little fussy this morning."
"Did you tell him we're going to the beach?" Mary asked, looking up at him.
Neal smiled at her. "We did baby but he's still a little young to understand."
Mary sighed again and folded her arms but remained quiet as she stared into the doorway.
Her face suddenly lit up and she jumped off her father, running around him to attach herself instead to the young man that just appeared in the doorway. "Henry! Are you ready to go to the beach?"
Henry smiled down at her and reached down to scoop her up into his arms. Mary wrapped her arms around her big brother's neck and smiled at him eagerly.
"I'm ready, are you?"
Mary nodded vigorously and used one arm to point to the fully wagon loaded. "All set!" She turned back to him with a pout. "But Mommy and Jake are taking forever."
Henry laughed. "I'm sure they'll be here any second, kiddo. But let's see what you've got in that wagon, huh?" Henry stepped off the porch and shared a smile with his father as he passed him carrying Mary back to the wagon.
"Did you pack this all by yourself?" Henry gasped in awe once they were near and Mary grinned, pointing and explaining each object inside the wagon.
Neal folded his arms lightly over his chest, smiling as he watched them. Henry seemed to be growing more and more everyday and at 17 he was now an inch or two taller than both Emma and himself. He had grown up so much since the eleven year old Neal had first met, losing some of that childlike innocence but never losing his good and hopeful heart. Despite almost being a man himself Henry genuinely enjoyed spending time with his younger family members - he even passed on the good ol' story book to Mary, allowing her to discover the magical history of their little town.
His clever intelligence only grew as he did and what were once his playful "Operations" had become thoughtful strategies to defeat any magical threat that descended upon Storybrooke over the years.
Neal wondered when Henry stopped being a small child they had to protect and became a valuable member to their team. It seemed to happen so quickly and it probably had to do in part to the fact he was already a preteen when they first met and he had already entered his teens by the time Mary came around and he had been, although very moody at times, a very helpful big brother to the baby.
It was hard to grasp that they had one more year with him before he decided what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. That he was the father to both what will be a senior in high school and a one year old.
There was a sudden screech from the aforementioned one year old behind him.
He turned around and his smile widened and he lowered himself to a squat as his son raced toward him on wobbly legs.
The baby let out another happy screech as he fell into his father's open hands and Neal lifted him up into his arms.
"Well, don't you look ready for the beach?"
His son was dressed in dark blue swim trunks and a white tank top that said "Little Prince" in gold letters, something his grandpa Charming had bought him, and a white summer cap on his head.
Jacob waved his arms happily, exclaiming loudly, "Da!"
"It was a chore and a half to get him in that outfit."
Neal lifted his head at Emma's voice and his breath caught as he caught sight of her.
She was dressed in a white sundress that provided sight to the red bikini she wore underneath and her long blonde hair fell over her shoulders in gentle waves.
Despite giving birth to two children in the last four years, she retained her beautiful figure and even after five years of marriage she was still able to steal his breath. He thanked God everyday that she forgave him and gave them another chance.
"Did you give your Mommy a hard time this morning?" Neal cooed at his son, tickling his round belly and Jake squealed.
Both parents turned towards the call where their young daughter stood near the wagon, her arms crossed impatiently.
"I think someone is a little excited." Emma laughed.
"A little bit." Neal also laughed and then they started walking towards the wagon.
Mary released her arms and grinned as they approached, bouncing on her heels. "Are you ready now?"
"Yes, we're all ready now." Neal confirmed with a smile. "Why don't you climb on in the wagon, sweetie?"
"Okay!" Mary twirled around and climbed into the little space in front of the wagon.
"Make a little room for your brother, Mar." Neal instructed as he stood next to her.
Mary giggled, glancing at her older brother standing on the opposite side of her. "Henry can't fit in here Daddy."
Neal laughed. "You know I didn't mean Henry…" He shifted Jake in his arms and started to lower him down into the wagon in front of Mary.
He let out another happy squeal flailing his arms and Mary flinched away to avoid the wildly flapping limbs. "Jakey…" She whined and Neal lightly grabbed his arms and pressed them down.
Jake looked up at his father inquisitively, his little lips parting as he stuck out his tongue.
"Hold on to him good, Mar."
Mary wrapped her arms around him and pulled him against her chest and Jake smiled, squealing again.
"Good girl, just like that." Neal praised and then nodded to Henry who then stepped in front of the wagon to take hold of the handle.
"Is everyone aboard the magical red carriage?" Henry asked and Mary giggled, which caused Jake to try and imitate, laughing himself.
"Yes, Princess Mary and Prince Jacob are all ready for the trip to the beach!"
Henry smiled. "Alright, off we go then!"
Both smaller children let out a squealing of delight as a Henry tugged the wagon into motion, setting off down the walkway towards the street.
Neal and Emma exchanged a smile and wrapped an arm around each other as they followed close behind the wagon.
It was about a five minute walk from their house to the public beach, a convenience they had well taken advantage of over the years.
There were already a few families out on the small beach, including Emma's parents.
Snow smiled and immediately ran over to her family as they came into view. "It is about time you got here."
Emma rolled her eyes. "Little Prince there was giving us some trouble." She nodded to Jake who had started flailing again at the sight of the beach and Mary had a similar reaction, grinning from ear to ear as she wiggled in her seat.
"Hi Grandma!" Mary turned to look over her shoulder and waved.
Snow grinned at the sight of her grandchildren. "Hello sweetheart!"
Finally Henry stopped the wagon where the sand met the grass and managed to scoop his little brother up into his arms before Mary scrambled excitedly out of the wagon.
She ran immediately over to her grandmother who scooped her up into her arms. "How is my little princess today?"
"I'm good! Grandma did you know it's my birthday?"
Snow mock gasped. "It is? And how old are you today?"
"Four!" She exclaimed holding up her hand, all five fingers extended. Snow giggled quietly and lowered her thumb into her palm.
"Four." She corrected softly.
"Oh yeah." Mary extended her thumb and then curled it back in, pushing her hand out again. "Four!"
Snow smiled at her and leaned in to kiss her palm to which Mary giggled.
"My, my, you are a big girl."
Mary nodded vigorously with a grin. "I am! Grandma, is Charlie here?"
"Yes he's with your grandpa right over there."
Snow pointed to where David stood near a blanket and a small boy, around five years old, who was playing in the sand.
David smiled and waved at them and Mary waved back and then squirmed to get down. Snow lowered her to the ground and Mary took off in a run towards her grandfather and uncle.
She quickly hugged David and then immediately plopped herself down beside Charlie.
"Hi Charlie! What are you making?"
Charlie looked over at her. "It's gonna be a castle! Like the one Mommy and Daddy used to live in."
"Cool! Can I help?" She asked, already reaching for a shovel and Charlie nodded.
"Sure...you can make that side." He pointed to the left side of the small mound of sand. Mary immediately dug into the sand and the two started working together to build the sandcastle.
The adults smiled fondly as they watched the children interact.
Snow then turned to greet Henry and take the wiggly baby out of his arms.
"Hello my Little Prince."
Henry rolled his eyes affectionately. "Are you ever going to stop calling me that?"
"No I'm not." Snow answered easily with a smile. "Despite the fact we don't live in the Enchanted Forest, you are royal blood Henry. You are a Prince by birthright."
Henry smiled. "Alright." He conceded with a nod. "But what part of me is "little"?" He asked with a chuckle as he motioned to his own tall frame that towered a good few inches over his grandmother.
"Oh, you'll always be little to me." Snow replied, eyes twinkling and Henry shook his head with a small laugh.
"Besides, I was mostly referring to this little prince." She cooed, turning to the baby in her arms.
Jake looked back at her through bright green eyes and squealed, flailing his arms happily.
"Do you mind if I take him?" Snow asked her daughter and Neal and they both immediately shook their heads and Emma waved her approval.
Snow grinned and shifted Jake's weight on her hip. "Let's go see Grandpa Charming." She cooed as she started down the beach towards her husband and the two children.
"I guess I'll go join them." Henry said with a small sigh but genuine smile.
"Have fun." Neal wished with a light chuckle and Emma's brow twitched in amusement as she waved him off.
Henry took off in a sprint down the sand, landing in a leap near Mary and Charlie, effectively startling the two children into fits of giggles. Then he plopped himself down across from them and started to ask about their castle.
The crunching of pebbles under tires suddenly drew Neal and Emma's attention behind them as a familiar black car pulled up.
Once the car was in park, Belle stepped out of the passengers side and waved to them with a friendly, warm grin.
Neal and Emma smiled and waved back.
Belle moved to the rear passenger door as the driver's door opened and Rumplestiltskin slowly stepped out of the car.
He immediately caught his son's gaze and a small smile formed his lips as he lifted his hand in a wave.
Neal smiled back and did the same.
Not a few seconds later, a whirl of brown hair raced around the front of the car.
"Ana, be careful!" Belle called after the little girl who went racing towards Neal.
Neal grinned and dropped to a squat as she ran directly into his open arms.
"Neal!" Ana greeted happily, winding her arms around her brother's neck.
"Ana!" Neal echoed back happily as he stood up and then swooped in to press a sloppy kiss to her cheek.
She squealed and tried to pull her face away. "Neaaaaal." She whined and he laughed.
Ana was five years old, a few months younger than Charlie who was almost six and a few months older than her niece, Mary.
The men had joked that there was something in the water that caused the three women to become pregnant so close together.
The women insisted it was only a matter of timing and they were all glad that their children had friends in each other, even if their familial relations was a complicated mess.
Anamarie Gold was the spitting image of her mother with wavy brown hair and bright blue eyes and had also inherited her gentle, kind and loving spirit. She loved her big brother Neal with all her little heart and Neal loved her just as much.
It had taken a little while but Rumplestiltskin was able to prove to his son that he had changed for the better. Their relationship was still a little on the rocks when he and Belle were married but Neal was asked to be the best man and didn't refuse the offer.
It was a small ceremony with only himself and Belle's father in attendance. The older man seemed just as uncomfortable as Neal was to be there and not so thrilled that his daughter was marrying the Dark One.
However, it was his father's and Belle's genuine vows and the pure love reflecting in each other's eyes as Archie named them husband and wife that really touched Neal's heart and made him finally start to see the light that was still present inside of the Dark One's soul.
It was only a few months after Neal and Emma's wedding, to which Rumplestiltskin was happily invited, that Belle announced her pregnancy.
And only a few months after that that Emma announced hers.
Even though Belle was technically his step mother, Neal saw her first and foremost as a friend who also happened to be married to his father.
It was her friendship and their closeness that helped him draw closer to his father over the years and then finally, learn to forgive him.
Belle and Emma bonded over their shared pregnancy, with Belle giving the other woman advice about how to deal with morning sickness and other pleasant experiences of early pregnancy, despite Emma jokingly tell her that she had indeed been pregnant before. It had been thirteen years though and Emma was grateful for the support and advice. Then Belle became a model of a graceful pregnancy and Rumplestiltskin, the picture of an anxious father.
That pushed Neal and his father even closer together as Rumplestiltskin opened up to his son about his fear of failing the new baby. Neal expressed the same fear, having not been around for Henry due to his own mistakes.
Then Anamarie was born and Rumplestiltskin fell in love. Doubts and fears of his own shortcomings plagued his mind and he still made mistakes but there was no doubt he was trying to be the best possible man he could be for his family.
The little baby was so sweet, she had everyone wrapped around her little finger, especially her big brother.
Neal spent his time for five months between his pregnant wife, his teenage son and his newborn sister. He was rarely found anywhere else and was happy in every moment.
That was until his own daughter was born. A perfect little angel that he felt such a deep, profound love for.
His own little family didn't separate him from the rest of his family, however. Because the girls were so close in age, Belle and Emma had them together all the time and once they got a little older they brought in another little playmate: Charles Nolan.
Emma's little brother was kind, gentle and protective of the girls and the three of them quickly became inseparable.
Neal wondered every day over the last several years how he has become so lucky. How he had gone from a poor, near orphan boy in the Enchanted Foresr, to an actual orphan in this world, to a common thief living a miserable lonely life, to this life...one full of rich love and surrounded by family.
"Neal, where is Mary?" Ana wondered, already looking around anxiously for her best friend.
Neal smiled at her and turned around, pointing down the sand where Mary, Charlie and Henry sat.
She gasped happily and wiggled in his arms. He chuckled and placed her down and then she was immediately racing down the sand, calling out Mary and Charlie's names.
The other two children looked up at the sound of her voice and broke into smiles and waves.
Mary and Ana hugged before Ana plopped herself down beside Mary, already reaching for a shovel of her own.
"They are so cute." Emma laughed.
"They are, aren't they?" Belle agreed with a small smile as she came to stand near them, Rumplestiltskin just behind her.
Emma and Belle embraced in a warm friendly hug as Rumplestiltskin and Neal shared a small smile and a nod of greeting.
"She was so excited to come." Belle said once they parted. "Especially when I said it was a birthday party. She was bouncing off the walls all morning."
Neal laughed, turning towards them. "Yes, so was Mary. Eventually I just had to get her outside so Emma could get the baby ready."
"They're joined at the hip." Emma laughed. "All three of them."
"I am so glad they have each other though." Belle said with a warm smile.
"One very unusual family but an extraordinary friendship." Neal said.
"One day we will have to explain their relationship to each other."
"One day." Belle agreed. "Ana I think is starting to understand. She finally stopped calling your parents her grandparents."
Emma laughed as the others grinned in amusement.
"My parents don't mind." Emma shrugged. "As far as they are concerned, Ana is just as much family as Charlie or Mary and Jake. If it makes it easier for Ana, they'd be happy to be grandparents."
A smile lit up Belle's face. "That is very sweet of them but I think they need to start to understand why Rumple is Grandpa to Mary but Papa to her and Neal is brother to her but Dad to Mary."
Neal scoffed, shaking his head. "My head hurts thinking about I can't imagine must be for a five year old."
"Ah, they are very bright children." Rumplestiltskin said with a small, proud smile. "They will learn. We have all adjusted and this is their normal...they don't know anything else."
Belle smiled at her husband and slipped her arm through his, leaning into his side as she nodded her head in agreement.
"And it doesn't seem to deter them from being so close." Emma added just as a simultaneous loud screech came from down the beach.
The three little ones sat around a now unformed pile of sand and their incessant joyous giggles reached their ears.
Henry suddenly stood up with an empty pail and raced towards the shoreline and simultaneous shouts of "Hurry Henry!" "We need more water!" followed him.
"He's so good with them." Belle observed as Henry ran back and plopped back down.
There was another round of loud screeches followed by mature laughter as he flicked water at all three of them. Then they all retaliated, sticking their little fists into the pail and splashing Henry right back.
The teenager fell onto his back dramatically and the children burst into laughter as they then started covering him in the sand. Even the screeching high pitched giggle of the youngest Cassidy still in grandmother's arms joined the noise.
Emma and Neal smiled proudly.
"Yeah, he's a good kid." Emma beamed.
"Shall we go join them?" Belle suggested with a smile.
Emma let out a little sigh but her lips twitched in a genuine smile. "If we must."
Belle laughed softly. "Yes, it is nice to take a step back from all of it, isn't it?"
Emma hummed, nodding for effect. "Amazingly, my parents seem to love every single second of it!"
She motioned to the couple on the beach with the kids, Snow having passed Jake onto Charming with both of their full attention on the baby and grinning from ear to ear.
"Well, I think they have your son covered for a while." Belle said. "And Henry just owns all of the other's attentions. Maybe we could just sit back and watch for a little while."
"Here's to hoping." Neal said with a smirk.
Belle smiled fondly at him and then nodded her head towards the beach. "Come on. The fun is down there, anyway."
They all exchanged a smile and Neal took Emma's hand and led the way across the sand with Rumple and Belle following close behind.
The rest of the day went by filled with fun and laughter and only a little bit of chaos.
A few of Mary's other friends from preschool were invited and joined them, including Cinderella's Alexandra who had a few years on all the other children but still was more than willing to partake in the fun.
They built several sand castles, naming one for each kingdom their parents had told them existed back in the Enchanted Forest.
After they got bored with the sandcastles, they headed into the water, with Emma and Neal joining them and spent a good hour splashing and swimming and romping through the gentle waves.
While Emma and Neal had collected the gifts, and Mary grew even more excited at the sight of the brightly wrapped boxes and gift bags, they told her she wouldn't be able to open them until they returned back home where dinner and cake would also be served.
She had pouted for a minute before Ana and Charlie pulled her back into the sand and she thankfully seemed to forget about the disappointment.
It had been a long couple hours, watching over and chasing around the young children, especially every time they headed into the water.
When it was just less than an hour until they packed up and headed back to the house to continue the festivities, Emma and Neal took a step away, going for a light stroll along the shore.
They were away for about fifteen minutes, grateful to have a little bit of a break before they were pulled into the hectic race of a young girl's birthday party again.
On their way back towards the group they paused a good distance away to just watch them all quietly.
Mary and her friends had long since left the water and were now back in the sand, taking turns digging holes and burying each other with Henry still faithfully at their sides.
Snow and Charming sat on the blanket closest to the kids, Snow still holding onto Jake and endlessly and happily entertaining the one year old.
Beside the blanket, Belle and Rumplestiltskin sat in beach chairs set up under an umbrella.
Rumplestiltskin watched over the children silently while Belle easily conversed with Ella and some of the other mothers who stayed for the party.
Emma and Neal both felt a sudden swell of warmth, and not just from the afternoon sun.
The sight before them was their happy family...something they had both lost long ago and only hoped they would find again.
Neal squeezed Emma's hand that was wrapped in his own and drew her in closer to his side.
Her smile widened as she leaned into him.
"You know what Emma…" He mused and she hummed, looking up at him.
His smile grew but he didn't take his eyes off the group.
"I think we found Tallahassee." He finished, his voice thick with emotion.
Emma's stomach flipped, her heart stuttering as she looked back at her family.
She leaned her head against his shoulder and squeezed his hand. "No...I think we found something better."
He finally glanced down at her, raising his brow inquisitively.
She grinned, her hazel eyes twinkling in joy and filled with such warmth and love.
All those many years ago, Tallahassee had meant home and a hope for a future together.
Things had changed since then, they had changed and dreams had changed but all for the better.
They had a whole new life, a whole new future, a whole new home.
"We found Storybrooke."
A/N: So, as you could tell, this story strayed pretty far from the canon of the show. And as far as I'm concerned, seeing how the show's canon is actually going what with Neal dead and Rumple and Belle's relationship basically irrecoverable... I needed to fix all of it. So I hope you enjoyed this story and hoped this tied up some loose ends that I left by trying to wrap up the story quicker than I had originally planned it out to be.