Three stages of realization.
The thing that breaks my heart so much about Bae/Neal is that — just like his father — he really just wants to be loved. He wants that unconditional, fight-to-the-death, give-up-everything-for-you love that he demonstrates so well (trying to save his father despite the horrific things he’d witnessed, giving himself up to save the Darlings, even letting go of Emma in ‘Tallahassee,’ and definitely falling through the portal in ‘Second Star To The Right’), but he doesn’t think he’s ever received it. His mother left him for her own selfish happiness, his father let him go for power and fear, his adopted family allowed him to sacrifice himself, Hook betrayed him from the very beginning to the end of what we’ve seen of their early interactions, and through it all, he’s come to want that love even more desperately, so he covers up that want, that desire, with snarky comments and sarcastic chuckles and slow smirks, just so that no one sees what he wants and lets him down.
And then Tamara comes, and maybe he doesn’t love her as much as he thinks he should and maybe some things seem a bit off, but it doesn’t matter because SHE CHOOSES HIM. She chose him above anyone else and she’s — he thinks — standing by him, and so he tells Emma that he needs her, because he needs to see someone who chose him, who loves him, needs that reminder that he can’t dream about Emma anymore and he has to ‘put childish things behind him.’ Even when she finds out about the messed up place he came from and the even more messed up town they’re currently staying in, she — he thinks — chooses him again. She accepts it and still wants to marry him, and so maybe Emma is there, but he can’t think about that because he let her go and he turned into her father where she and Henry are concerned and he has someone who chose him for once and he can’t let that go.
So this moment, when he realizes that she didn’t choose him, that she NEVER chose him, that once again he is a pawn for bigger forces than himself, that he’s been used and discarded just as before…he can do nothing but ask over and over again, like the abandoned child he is, if she ever loved him (so reminiscent of Rumplestiltskin’s explosion after Belle’s first kiss, and again, gotta love the parallels).
But when it comes down to it, Bae/Neal ALWAYS chooses the ones he loves over himself, so even when he’s shot by the woman he thought was his something new, even when he’s bleeding out and hurting — and surely terrified by the sight of this green portal he’s been running from for centuries — he makes the leap for Emma. And I am so beyond happy that before he fell, before he gave himself up once again for family, he saw someone REALLY, TRULY choose him — and not for the first time, but for the second time. She still loves him, and he still loves her, and they both chose the other’s happiness over their own, and that’s why I love their story so much — and yes, I even love the Tamara angle, because it makes sense to me that Bae/Neal, trying to decide if he should throw off his assumed cynicism and hope he could make amends with Emma though it meant facing his father…he clutched desperately at this ulterior woman who offered him what he wanted. Tamara is Bae/Neal’s Cora, but Emma is his Belle.
The pinnacle of Nealfire’s character is in this exact moment - when Tamara is holding a gun to his head. He isn’t even concerned that he might die; his biggest concern is that Tamara has been lying to him and has never loved him.