At age 6, he blinked down at the beaten-up package sitting at his front door. His mother had told him that on the day of his sixth birthday he would be receiving a present from the government. Jungkook wondered why the government cared enough about him to send him a present, but he didn’t complain as he ravaged the box and was left confused, staring at the machine inside.
“Honey, every child gets their very own best friend once they turn six. Once you turn your program on, you’ll meet yours. You’ll be grateful one day.”
And so Jungkook huffed and stomped up the stairs, his tiny feet not making as much sound as he’d like to. He had wanted the limited addition race car that lit up when he opened it, not a machine. Surprisingly, Mother made no effort to call out for him or bring his present upstairs to his room as she normally would. So, Jungkook sulked in his sheets and noted that this would have to be his worst birthday yet.
The sound of his mother murmuring downstairs was the only thing that caused him to move from his place on the bed, though. But when he peeked through the pillars on the stairs, Jungkook saw his mother sitting on the sofa with a blue image blinking in front of her. A form of a middle aged woman with furrowed brows as she listened to Mother speak. “He will appreciate it one day, I know it.”
“Well, if he’s anything like you Katherine, he will be very dedicated to his Mentor.”
A huff, “I hope so.”
And with a bite of his lip and a small sigh, Jungkook hurried down the stairs and, without making a sound, scooped up the lightweight machine and brought it back to his room.
It didn’t seem too difficult to use, a blinking power button and a compartment for batteries the only thing covering the stark white box. His mother had already placed the batteries in, only leaving him to turn it on. So why was he hesitating? Jungkook wondered who his friend would be. Hopefully a little boy like himself. Maybe with curly, dark hair and the same love of toys.
All it took was one press of a button and the room was cast in a blue light, reflecting off of every surface. But his friend didn’t have curly, dark hair but he was a little boy like himself. A boy with blonde hair and chocolate-hued eyes stared down at him with a smile that took over his entire face. He looked bright.
“Hello,” His voice was light.
“You’re my birthday present.”
He frowned, “Not really. I was hoping for a race car.”
He seemed to think for a while. “The one that lights up when you open it?”
Jungkook nodded and smiled, him returning it. “By the way, my name is Taehyung. Kim Taehyung.”
“Jungkook,” And his eyes lit up in a way he had never seen, maybe because he was only a hologram, but he found his heart ache at the sight. “That’s a pretty name.”
And that’s how their story began. A room casted in the blue light of his hologram and laughter filling the air. The word pretty and how his heart ached at the shine of his eyes. His mother standing in the doorway, watching on with tears clouding her vision. Their story isn’t a fairy-tale. Their love was never made to work. He was a hologram, only a vision. But, God, even though he was only alive when he turned on his monitor, he felt his stomach churn every time he saw his face.
At age 10, Jungkook found himself refilling his batteries every 24 hours. He had been with him every day since his sixth birthday, growing every day with him. His mother had told him that every day he doesn’t turn on his monitor; he will stay the same as when he had last seen him.
“So, honey, if you don’t turn him on from now until you’re 30 years old, he will stay a child.”
He rolled her eyes, “Why is that a bad thing?”
“You will think it’s a bad thing when you’re an adult and you have Taehyung still talking about the latest episode of Ben 10.”
Jungkook had told Taehyung this and he pouted, “I don’t like Ben 10.”
“You made me turn you on yesterday to watch the latest episode, Tae,” He laughed.
He wrinkled his nose, “Yeah, to make fun of it. His pants are too long and no one wears olive tones anymore.”
Taehyung watched him giggle with amusement, enjoying the way his eyes lit up for him. He hadn’t laughed like that for a week. When he had come back from school with tomato soup staining his clothes and tears staining his cheeks, Taehyung told him it’d be okay, that it will be over soon. But every day since, the children have continued to wreak havoc on his life.
So, seeing Jungkook’s face alight with laughter, although the boy that he had mentioned that he had a crush on had sent him a note saying that he smelt today, made him feel fuzzy. Taehyung told him that they were jealous because he was eating good food and they were eating peanut butter sandwiches for lunch.
He wished that he could pass Taehyung one of his dolls through the hologram, to let him play with him just once. Jungkook noticed the longing in his eyes as he watched him play with his limited edition race car. Jungkook knew that Taehyung knew that he wasn’t a regular boy. He was only a hologram.
But when he saw his virtual eyes flick to his and his lips tilted up in a smile, he realised that he didn’t have to be a regular boy. Being just Taehyung was enough.
At the age of 15, Taehyung remembered him standing in front of his closet, sorting through an assortment of clothes. “You don’t need to worry, babe.”
He rolled his eyes at his new pet name – and if Taehyung was being honest, he had just been installed with too many 90’s high school films, he didn’t know any better. “Tae, you don’t get it. Park Jimin, is going to be at the party tonight and I have been breaking out lately. I can’t look bad in front of him.”
Taehyung wanted to tell him he would never look bad. That he didn’t need to wear designer coats or polished shoes to be beautiful. But he knew that it made him feel beautiful, and really, that’s all he has ever really wanted.
Taehyung watched from his seat on the bed – fine, it wasn’t really a seat, the monitor was just placed on the sheets – and eyed him as he picked out his outfit. And then he turned around to tell him something but he wasn’t sure he quite remembered what it was because when he saw him he felt his heart drop.
Taehyung wasn’t sure why he thought of it, but the first thing that came to his head was: Park Jimin, you lucky son of a bitch.
“Did you hear me?”
He snapped back to reality and tried his best to seem nonchalant, shrugging, “No.”
“I asked whether I should wear a pants or shorts.”
Taehyung’s mind flashed with the sex ed manuals that were installed into him and blurted out a quick, “Pants.”
A fleeting smile graced his face, stunning him. “Do you think Jimin likes pants, though?”
And then the situation crashed down on him and although he could not cry, he swore that he felt his eyes watering. “It doesn’t matter what he likes. Dress for yourself.”
“You’re right,” Jungkook bit his lip and stared into him, stilling his movements. “Thank you.”
He choked as he mumbled, “Anything for you.”
And then it was quiet. He heard Jungkook’s breathing halt and his cheeks flushed and Taehyung found his fingers shake from the tension in the air. Because, when did this start? When did Taehyung start feeling that every subtle move he made and every time he met his eyes set his body on fire.
Jungkook walked up to him slowly and although all he wanted to do was reach for him, he kept his hands resting in his lap. “I’m going to have to turn you off now. You know, because I have to get dressed.”
Taehyung nodded, trying to hide the rosy flush of his cheeks, “Yeah, I know. Have fun at the party. Tell Jimin that if he hurts you, I’ll invert his dick.”
“I’ll make sure of it,” He grinned.
He was then turned on 5 hours later, blinking rapidly at the light that burnt his eyelids. And then he saw him. Glowing brighter than he had ever seen. His cheeks didn’t need blush because of the deep pink that tinted his skin. He bit his lip to hide the smile.
Taehyung was mesmerized.
“That was the best night I’ve ever had, Tae.”
Snapped out of his daze, he realised why he was glowing. Why he was happier than he had ever seen him. Why his eyes weren’t lit up just for him. “What happened?”
“He kissed me, Tae. Jimin kissed me.”
“Why did you say it like that?”
Jungkook frowned, “What?”
“Why did you say me like you were surprised?”
He rolled her eyes, “Stop it. I’m not in the mood for your lectures. Can’t I be happy for once?”
God, was Taehyung selfish. “You’re right. I’m sorry.”
It was quiet for a moment and then he gave a small smile, “Do you want me to tell you what happened?”
He choked on his breath. No, of course he didn’t. But he still nodded.
And then he sat through his story of how Jimin had stayed by his side all night, offering to pour him punch and brushing his hands down Jungkook’s arms. How he had led him to the front porch and talked to him about the moon. How he had grasped his chin and leaned in, pressing his lips against his own.
“He was so sweet, Taehyung. It had all the cliché feelings they talk about in the movies. Fireworks and all.”
A clenched jaw, “I’m glad you’re happy.”
“Don’t be jealous.”
Taehyung chuckled and purses his lips. “Why would I be jealous? Do you think I want to kiss you?”
He knew that he had made a mistake as soon as the words were out but the damage was already done and he was staring at him with hate in his eyes. “Please, you’re jealous because you’re never going to get to. You’re just a fucking hologram.”
His heart had been broken with just 18 words and 21 syllables.
“Turn me off, now.”
Jungkook got up and stomped over to the monitor, “My pleasure.”
At the age of 18, Taehyung was now a week younger than Jungkook. After their fight, he hadn’t turned him on for 9 days and when he had, he refused to look him in the eye. That was until he murmured a quiet, “What time did the man go to the dentist?”
He saw the hint of a smile across his face as he replied, “Tooth hurt-y.”
And then it was fine again, Jungkook updating him on how Jimin had asked him out on a date to the theatre and he had accepted. They shared another kiss during the movie and he cringed because he still had popcorn kernels in his teeth. But Jimin didn’t seem to mind much.
So, now, as he got himself ready into his robe, Taehyung heard a knock at the door. “I’ll get it!”
He rolled his eyes, “You’re such an idiot.”
Taehyung heard Jungkook’s mother laughing downstairs and then a male voice rumbled through the house, something that hadn’t been heard for a long time. Taehyung had gotten used to the stories about his boyfriend, trying to seem as polite as possible. He was happy that he was, though.
Jungkook barrelled into the room, a boy with mousy hair in tow, “Jimin, this is my Mentor, Taehyung.”
Jimin smiled pitifully at the boy at his side and eyed him, “You still talk to yours? Babe, we are graduating.”
Taehyung’s eyebrow twitched.
“Of course I do, don’t you?”
“No. I’m not a little kid,” He kissed the side of his head, almost condescendingly. Although he didn’t have any, Taehyung was sure he felt his blood boil beneath his skin. “How old is he? The same age as you? You’ve been turning him on every day?”
“What’s wrong with that?” Taehyung interfered.
Jimin winked at him, “Nothing. I just think that my boy needs to be around real men more often.”
Jungkook huffed, “Enough, Jimin. I want to have a good day.”
“Sorry, babe. Didn’t mean to offend you or your hologram.”
“Taehyung. It’s Taehyung.”
“Yeah, alright. Sorry Taemin.”
How could his best friend be dating this dick? “Alright, I hope you have a great time tonight. I’m proud of you.”
Jungkook’s eyes softened as he hovered his hand over the power button. He leaned over until his mouth was right next to the pixel of his ear. “I’ll be thinking of you the whole time.”
Taehyung swore he felt Jungkook’s warmth cloak him.
Just that night, Jungkook sobbed into his elbow, tears puddling on the sleeve of his button up. Taehyung’s battery needed to be charged and he needed to talk to him now.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck,” He whimpered as he ravaged through the drawers, spreading receipts and old machinery into disarray on the floor. “Mom? Where are all the batteries?”
“Sorry, honey, I used the last ones for my Mentor.”
He clenched his fists, breathing in and out slowly, making sure not to burst. “Can I please take them out? I only need them for a second.”
“Be quick, I need to talk to her soon.”
That was all he needed to run over to his mother’s worn out monitor and snatch away the batteries, running up the stairs and replacing it in his own. Jungkook waited for the blue light and rubbed at his swollen eyes.
He looked up at Taehyung, a small smile that didn’t hide the puff and the red of his eyes. “I hate him, Tae.”
Jungkook saw Taehyung’s fist clench and unclench and the bite of his jaw. “Tell me what he did.”
And he told him that he had found Jimin grinding down on his best friend at the graduation after party. He told him how he had been cheating on him for the past 2 years. He told him how his heart was broken.
All the while Taehyung’s eyebrow twitched and his knuckles turned porcelain in the grip he had in his fist. “I never want you to shed any tears for that scumbag, understood? I don’t want you to even think of his face.”
A sob, “How?”
Taehyung wanted to tell Jungkook to think of him instead, to only think of his smile. To spend time with him. To try to forget Jimin’s eyes and replace it with his. Taehyung wanted to tell Jungkook that he was in love with him.
“I’m not sure.” Jungkook’s eyes cast downwards. “But, we will get through it together.”
And then Taehyung saw something that surprised him. He was sure he saw Jungkook smile.
At the age of 22, Jungkook hadn’t turned Taehyung on as much as he used to. Moving out of his home and onto a new college campus had meant he would be busy more often. Taehyung understood. His time at university was nearly done, though.
The day he turned him on again was when his eyes were glazed over and his cheeks were flushed, eyes wider than usual. Empty bottles were littered all over his dorm and Taehyung rolled his eyes, “You called?”
He giggled, “You’re kind of like a genie, right?”
Taehyung couldn’t help the smile that widened across his face. “I guess.”
Jungkook took a sip from his solo cup and sloshed the liquid around, “I miss you.”
“I miss you too.”
Taehyung’s heart beat rapidly against his chest as Jungkook stared into his eyes, almost as if he could see through him – which, he could, but forget that. “You know, the day I opened you up and you told me I was lucky for getting you as a present and I said I wasn’t, I take it back now. I am lucky. I don’t know what I’d do without you Taehyung.”
This was it. This was the right time to tell him, “Jungkook I-“
“That’s why I think I should tell you first. You remember me introducing me to my new boyfriend a few months ago? Jung Hoseok?”
This didn’t feel right. Oh, God, it felt wrong.
Jungkook raised a finger to him, “He proposed to me today.”
It was as if Taehyung had been hit, the air blown from his chest as he stared at the ring on his finger. It was as if Jungkook has punched him in the gut himself. “And you said yes.”
“It felt right, Taehyung. I feel like we could be great together, don’t you think?”
And as Taehyung eyed the man in front of him with clouded eyes and a grin nearly as wide as his own used to be and skin that radiated like a beacon, all he could say was, “Congratulations.”
Jungkook’s eyes lined in silver as he saw Taehyung’s hands clutched together. “I’m sorry.”
At the age of 27, Taehyung was turned on for the first time in years. But the eyes that met his weren’t the chocolate-hue he had grown accustomed to. Two children with messy, curly hair climbed onto the monitor and pawed through the hologram, attempting to touch him.
A boy with honey-toned skin and deep brown eyes played with building blocks next to the girl with emerald eyes.
They were beautiful.
Small gurgles escaped them as they touched the pixels, curious eyes staring into him. “Hae, Dongsun, what are you two doing in there?”
The matured voice sent shivers down Taehyung’s spine. A voice he hadn’t heard in so long. A voice he had missed.
His form entered the room, clad in a button up with a tie hanging loosely around his collar and slacks pressed well. This was not the Jungkook he had last seen. But Taehyung saw his eyes widen as he saw Taehyung’s hologram staring back at him. He made no move to come closer, though.
“Children, go to your Father.” Jungkook ordered, tone stern.
They ran away quickly, pounding down the stairs. “They are beautiful, Jungkook.”
His eyes turned away, slowly rolling his sleeves to his elbow, “They are.”
The quiet was uncomfortable. It had never been this way with the two of them before.
A quiet murmur, “What time did the man go to the dentist?”
Even from this far he could see the tear rolling down Jungkook’s cheek. “Don’t do this, Taehyung.”
“Then turn me off,” Taehyung protested. “Turn me off and put me under your bed like you have for the past 6 years.”
Jungkook stormed into the room, slamming the door. “You don’t understand what I have been through, alright? You don’t. Stop acting like this. You’re lucky I used to turn you on every day in the first place. Normally people open their holograms once and never again.”
“Then tell me what I need to understand! I’m not here for any other reason! I’m here for you and you only, Jungkook. I always have been.”
And then he collapsed onto the floor, sobs wracking through him, clutching at the dusty monitor that was no longer stark white. “My mother died yesterday, Tae. Hoseok and I are planning our divorce. I can’t take care of Hae and Dongsun alone. I’m broke and at their age, I’ll need to stay with them full-time.”
Taehyung remembered the melody of his mother’s laugh and the love she had for her own Mentor and felt his heart ache at the memory, “I’m so sorry, Kook.”
He bit his lip until it bled, “What do I do now?”
“I’m not sure,” And Jungkook looked up at him. “But, we’ll get through it together.”
And it felt like déjà vu because Taehyung saw the faint smile cross his face. “Always.”
At the age of 63, Jungkook opened his monitor for the last time. Taehyung’s youthful face looked stark compared to the lines around Jungkook’s eyes and the way the skin beneath his chin drooped. The pixels in the hologram were out of focus and the outline of Taehyung’s form was blurry.
“Hey, you old hag.”
Taehyung felt the hair on the back of his neck stand on end as he heard the wheezy voice of the man he loved, “It’s done, right? It’s over?”
“How do you know?”
Jungkook frowned, wrinkles between his brow becoming prominent, “I don’t know. I can just tell.”
“How are Hae and Dongsun?”
“They have a nice little family. Dongsun’s children come here often.”
Taehyung stared at the old man in front of him, looking nothing like the spritely boy he once was. The only thing that looked familiar on him was the shine of his eyes and the silver hair that swept across his forehead. “I never told you, but I loved you, Jungkook. I’ve never loved anyone as I’d loved you.”
“You didn’t need to tell me, I knew.”
Taehyung gave him a small smile, “When did you realise?”
“When I was 15, at the party I met Jimin at. You stared at me like I hung the moon.”
And despite being nothing but a hologram, a vision, a tear slipped down his cheek. “Don’t leave me.”
“Then stay with me.”
Jungkook reached a shaky hand out to Taehyung and although his own hand slipped right through his, he felt the warmth radiating from the man he loved and, really, that was enough.
“You were never just a hologram, Taehyung. You made me believe that I was worth something. Thank you for making my life the best it could have been.”
“Don’t you dare leave me, Jeon Jungkook,” Taehyung’s tears clouded his vision and flashes of web searches for grief and loss appeared on his server.
“I remember the day I got you my mother said I would be grateful one day. I wonder if her own Mentor was the last thing running through her head.”
“I love you, Jungkook.”
Jungkook flashed him a grin that seemed so boyish, so familiar, “And I you.”
And then Jeon Jungkook’s eyes faded and his skin turned blue under the light Taehyung’s hologram casted him in. Taehyung felt his heart break in two as he stared down at the man who rested peacefully.
So, at the age of 63, Jungkook had died. And the last thing that ran through his mind was his Mentor, the hologram that he had never touched yet loved so wholly.
And that’s how their story ended. A room casted in the blue light of his hologram and sobs echoing through the air. The word love and how his heart ached at the blank sheen of his eyes. The house quiet, no one being able to witness the tragic end of their love story. Their love isn’t a fairy-tale. It was never made to work. He was a hologram, only a vision. But, God, even though he was only alive when he turned on his monitor, he felt his stomach churn the last time he saw his face.