It's game night at Leo's but there are three of them and only two controllers so it's Otabek's turn to sit back on the couch while Leo and JJ go head to head, cross-legged on the basement floor.
"Bastard!" JJ yells and mashes the controller buttons with more enthusiasm than finesse as Leo racks up more points. He turns and looks up at Otabek. "You never braid my hair."
Otabek finishes off the second braid and wraps an elastic around the bottom, plain black, from his jeans pocket. "It's not long enough."
"It's long." JJ lets go of the controller long enough to run his hand up the back of his head. "On top."
"Not really," Otabek says but he shifts over on the couch so that JJ is leaning back between his knees.
"You can't pull it off," Leo says. "You're not pretty enough." He scores again. "Suck it, JJ!"
"No fair," JJ says. "Beks made me miss."
"Fine," Otabek says. "It's my turn anyway."
"Come on!" JJ twists around again and flashes Otabek his big JJ grin.
And instead of pulling the controller from JJ's hands, Otabek runs his fingers through JJ's hair, combing it back, skimming his fingertips along JJ's scalp.
"I'm the pretty one," JJ says and turns back to the game.
It's not long enough but Otabek braids JJ's hair anyway, two tiny plaits that he clips with the purple butterfly barrettes Leo's sister left on the side table. The braids stick out like the pricked-up ears of a dog. Otabek scratches the back of JJ's head like he'd scratch a dog and JJ squirms back into it like he's a dog being scratched.
"Pay attention, pretty boy," Leo says.
But JJ drops the controller. "Your turn," he says and stands so Otabek can slide off the couch down next to Leo.
"You're going down, Beks," Leo says and starts the game.
"You're long on top too," JJ says and tugs a handful of Otabek's hair. "Are there more barrettes?"
Otabek is good at video games, he's got hand-eye coordination and a killer's eye. But when JJ's knees close around Otabek's shoulders and JJ's fingers twist up locks of Otabek's hair, snapping on the barrettes, Otabek's attention shifts from the screen to his own skin, everywhere JJ presses against it.
When Leo wins, he tosses the controller on the floor. "You both suck," he says. "Your hair."
He takes a selfie, tipping in close to Otabek, and JJ rests his chin on the top of Otabek's head. When Leo sits back up again, JJ waits a few seconds longer, hands heavy on Otabek's shoulders, before he pulls away.
"We're all pretty," JJ says when their phones both chime.
There are three barrettes in Otabek's bunched-up hair: two pink flowers and a blue smiling cat. Above him, JJ is smiling too, and Otabek can still feel the warmth of JJ's hands. He saves the photo to his camera roll.
And before next game night, he goes out and buys some butterfly barrettes.
Time for beltenebra!