Charmed Life (Rumpelstiltskin/Belle; Snow/Charming)
AU Regina made Mr. Gold and Mary Margaret believe they were married. This is really well written and develops a great friendship between Gold and MM. It also answers the question of what season one would have been like if Emma had not distrusted Gold quite as much. Canon ships.
I think, for a long time, curses were not something that could broken. Then someone gave their beloved one last kiss and the curse broke. Word spread, and people started to discover that many curses had the same vulnerability.
(I bet, before the Kiss was discovered, everyone swore by tears (ala Rapunzel). Tears couldn’t reverse a death or break a curse, but they had remarkable healing properties under certain circumstances.)
As the word spread, however, those who designed curses started to take the Kiss into account. They designed curses without that weakness. New curses did not break with a single Kiss. (Think of diseases and medications, in some sense).
That’s why Regina was so furious with Maleficent in that one episode. How dare Maleficent trade her an old-school curse with a Kiss weakness?
At the same time, however, not all using curses are upgrading. For one, it probably takes additional effort. For two, true love isn’t that common. Yes, our hero(in)es are finding it, but there have been false occasions of it and arranged marriages as well. True Love is still something to celebrate and desire, not expect.
Also, the Kiss isn’t constant. Rather than rely on fate, a confirmation of some pre-determined bond, the Kiss seems to rely on emotion, knowledge/understanding, and acceptance (a combination of understanding mentally and giving yourself over emotionally).
For example, let’s jump out of OUaT for a moment and consider Disney’s version of Beauty and the Beast. Belle and the Beast/Adam are true loves. They are each other’s other half. They are bound by the red string. However you want to term it. However, suppose Belle had kissed the Beast prior to the ending of the film, do you think the kiss would have broken the spell? Doubtful. They were falling in love (we get songs letting us know this), but they weren’t there yet. The emotion was there, but the acceptance of love was not. Not yet.
Now consider OUaT’s version with Rumpelstiltskin and Belle. When Belle kisses him, she does so loving him, knowing he loves her, and accepting that the love is real and true. What stops Rumpelstiltskin’s transformation is not his lack of love for Belle, but rather is lack of acceptance. He rejects the idea of true love existing between them. He refuses to give himself over to the kiss and the kiss ceases to be effective.
Some people wonder why David and Mary Margaret’s kissing is not working when Emma and Graham’s did. My answer is this: Neither is a True Love’s Kiss.
In the case of David and Mary Margaret, they have the emotion and they acknowledge the connection between them, but they are not yet giving into it. They do not yet recognize the connection as True Love, and they are both holding back a little. The emotion is there full-force, but the knowledge of what it is they share and the acceptance thereof are lacking.
There is also the possibility that Rumpelstiltskin designed the curse to be invulnerable against True Love’s Kiss.
In the case of Emma and Graham, I believe the Kiss worked only because Emma is the curse’s weakness. Graham was already on the verge of remembering, possibly due to his continued close proximity to Emma (though then one does wonder about Mary Margaret, unless the curse just has a tighter hold on her thanks to Regina’s personal hatred for her). Then, when he interacted with the counter-curse so intimately. When Emma lowered her defenses to him (lowering the walls, letting her inner counter-curse shine through?), he remembered more.
I could be entirely off-base on all of this, but it is what is making the most sense to me currently.
Rumpelstiltskin designed the curse knowing that Regina would eventually seek it out, that she’d eventually get it. He designed the curse requiring a heart precisely so that Regina would have to experience the same pain he’d felt when he’d lost Belle.
ETA: I forgot— he did give the curse to Regina first. Regina was the one who traded it away. I bet he was not pleased when he found that out.