Merlin wished he could honestly say he knew his soulmate the moment they met. That was how his mother had said it was with Balinor. They had just known. Of course that just meant it hurt even more when he had finally said those dreaded words and left for good to hide from King Uther's forces. As the ink faded from her skin, she knew. She would never see her soulmate again.
When Merlin saw Arthur for the first time the thought of him being his soulmate didn't even cross his mind. How could anyone have a soulmate like him? But that was when he had seen it. Prince Arthur had no words on him. His right wrist bore no ink unlike the dark words that swirled on Merlin's skin.
Even after spending almost every waking minute with Arthur, seeing what a good man he was, hearing who he would become, he had succumbed to the fact that he would never say what was on Merlin's wrist.
When he had met Freya, he had been almost certain she was the one. That she was his soulmate. But when the words she spoke as she died and the words on his wrist proved him wrong, he was lost. Even when his hopes were raised as he retrieved Excalibur from the lake, her last words had betrayed him once again and he felt empty.
As he sent Lancelot off and he opened his eyes one last time, saying the words he so clearly yearned to hear, Merlin felt joy for what seemed like the first time. It was a bitter, melancholy joy, but he had found his soulmate.
He awoke the next morning to find the words still etched in his skin, they seemed to burn. It was as if someone had branded the words on his arm, carved them into his skin with a hot knife. The pain was nothing compared to that of Gwen when she saw her words had faded from her own skin.
He felt more alone than ever, though he was surrounded by people. All of whom could be his soulmate. All except one.
The one he truly wanted it to be. But his words would never match that of his wrist. And he had no soulmate. His wrist had been bare from the day he was born.
His father had assumed it was because of his unnatural death, only adding to the king's fear of magic.
Yet, he still seemed to be undeniably attached to Arthur, no matter what he did. It was destiny, and no man, woman, or child was able to outrun destiny. Though, as Merlin watched Arthur on his deathbed, he assumed outrunning and outsmarting were two different things.
Just because some stupid prophecy had told him the man he loved was going to die, didn't mean he had to sit around and let it happen. He was going to try everything in his power to save Arthur, and he didn't care if he wanted nothing to do with him by the time he was done, but Merlin was going to save his friend. He didn't care if he had to run for the rest of his life from troops of Camelot knights, it would be worth it.
When Arthur had told him he didn't want Merlin to change anything about himself, it had filled him with hope. Maybe he wouldn't have to run. Maybe Albion could survive after all. Maybe Arthur could make it and go back to Gwen. He could he happy.
He still gripped to that hope, tighter then he gripped Arthur in his arms, even as he lay there dying. Arthur was dying and Merlin could do nothing to stop it.
He struggled as Arthur accepted his fate. Told Merlin just to hold him. As if that was all he had ever wanted.
As his head lolled back, and his breathing slowed, he said one last thing. The two words Merlin had been waiting to hear for so long.
They had not only been the last words Arthur had spoken to him, but also the last words he had spoken in this life, and as his tears clouded his vision he had not noticed the ink on his wrist fade away only to be replaced with something new.
And as he slowly made his trek back to the castle he saw the new words and smiled a small, bittersweet smile as he remembered what Kilgharrah had told him.
He would see Arthur again, even if it was in a million years. And he would lose Arthur again, but he would do it a million times until they could die together if that was what it took.