The first time Tyler realizes something about Debby is the day after Josh’s 30th birthday. That’s where it all started.
Jordan, Debby and Jenna had thrown a party at Tyler and Jenna’s mostly new home to celebrate the previous night, complete with obnoxious wallpaper made out of pictures of Josh’s face and the words ‘Happy Birthday’ in a pattern, Jenna’s homemade ice cream, and Tyler winning best gift (in his own mind) to Josh. Tyler had gifted him an entire space in his own basement studio to record live drums, complete with a new kit and cozy atmosphere. Josh had cried so Tyler considered it a win in his book even if it wasn’t a competition in the first place.
The morning after, however, was the annual big birthday breakfast at the Dun household.
Debby had been cryptic the entire day of Josh’s birthday saying she could only give Josh his gift the next day and refused to even tell Jenna what it was.
So when that next morning came and the Duns and Tyler and Jenna were all piled into the living room, Debby looked to Josh’s mom and finally announced she could give Josh his gift.
Tyler’s interest was already peaked from her tiptoeing around the subject. He narrowed his eyes at the thought of her beating him for best gift. Nobody knew it was a competition except Tyler, but Tyler always won. He didn’t like surprises.
Debby sat Josh in the middle of the living room floor and told him to close his eyes while she went to retrieve his present.
When Tyler looked down at Josh he could tell he was nervous. He was fidgeting on the floor, unable to get comfortable as he knew all eyes were on him and he wasn’t allowed to look back.
“Okay.” Debby’s voice called from behind the couch where Tyler and Jenna were sitting side by side.
“No peaking. I’m going to put it in your lap okay?” she said encouragingly.
Josh shifted in place again. Tyler wanted to go comfort him.
Debby rounded the couch and Tyler couldn’t believe his eyes. She was holding a dog. No not a dog, a puppy. A tiny golden puppy.
Jenna gasped in excitement, which caused Josh to jump in his seat.
“What? What is it should I be scared?” He asked moving to take his hands off his eyes.
“No!” Jenna nearly squealed.
Tyler couldn’t believe it. A puppy. A horrible slobbering barking nipping thing that was going to be Josh’s.
Debby kneeled in front of Josh and placed the tiny thing in his lap and took his hands in hers. His eyes were still sinched closed like he was terrified.
Debby giggled softly and took Josh’s hands and placed it on the puppy.
“Ok. Open.” She said with a beaming smile on her face.
Tyler has never seen Josh’s eyes go so wide in his entire life. His shocked expression turned into a skull splitting grin.
“A puppy!!” Josh exclaimed. The entire room awed as the animal in question gave a big yawn and opened its big brown eyes.
Tyler hated it. Josh loved it.
“Mine?” Josh looked quickly up to Debby nearly speechless.
“Of course, sweetheart, do you like him?” She asked quietly as the room erupted into noise of fawning over the offending creature.
Josh nodded furiously and held the thing up under its armpits to look it dead in the eye.
“He’s perfect Deb, thank you.” He pulled Debby in a hug still holding the thing to his chest but careful not to squish it. Josh was always so gentle with everything he did, Tyler was having a hard time keeping his heart icy at the thought of the dog.
“He’s a very special guy actually. I thought maybe when he gets a little older he can travel with you? He’s officially certified.” Debby pulls out a packet of paperwork from her bag and eagerly sits back down in front of Josh to show him a certificate with the dogs ‘signature’ on it which was really just a tiny ink dipped paw print.
Josh looked over the papers with a furrow in his brow and let Jordan snatch the thing out of his lap to give it a cuddle and let the rest of the family pet him.
Tyler looked to Jenna finally shocked out of his stupor to see she was nearly bouncing in her seat, seemingly unaware of her husbands distaste for the gift.
“He’s an emotional support animal?” Josh breathed looked back up into Debby’s eyes.
Debby nodded and grinned.
“He can be there for you when I can’t be hm?” She whispered and ran a hand through his short curls.
Josh tackled her in a hug and buried his face in her neck and Tyler could see the tell-tale signs of Josh’s shoulders shaking as he let out a quiet sob.
His words were muffled in her hair but Tyler could hear him loud and clear.
“He’s the best gift I’ve ever gotten, I love you so much.”
Suddenly Josh jerked up out of her embrace and whipped around to Tyler who was still sitting on the couch like a bump on a log.
Josh wiped his eyes furiously before starting.
“That means he can come on tour with us Ty!” He nearly shouted. Josh also seemed to not realize Tyler’s dismay at having the thing be around with them while they traveled.
The rest of the Dun family finally took their attention away from the puppy for a few moments to laugh at Josh’s outburst.
“We don’t even have an album Josh.” Tyler tried to joke putting on a smile for his friends sake.
“Yeah but we will! And then he can be right there with me! Side stage!”
“Yeah, that’s great it’ll be good to have him around.” Tyler felt bad about giving him the white lie but he wasn’t about to crush his best friends dreams on his birthday just because Tyler a) hated dogs and b) was having his own personal pity party because he got beat for best gift. He wasn’t a monster. The puppy however, was.
Josh motioned for Jenna to join him on the floor after accepting Tyler's response. Josh was handed the fluffy thing and he passed it to Jenna ever so carefully, holding it like a baby.
Tyler wanted to roll his eyes but the picture in front of him was too cute. Josh was really happy. Genuinely happy. Not a hint of tension in his shoulders like he always seemed to carry.
Tyler felt guilty.
Later when the initial excitement had worn off over the new pet, Tyler got up to get a drink from the refrigerator. When he closed the door he jumped when Debby had appeared behind it.
“Sorry.” She apologized sheepishly. “I wasn’t trying to corner you I just wanted to talk to you?” She asked hopefully.
Tyler didn’t respond out loud but nodded for her to continue as he popped the tab of his coke open.
Debby took a deep breath before launching into a sentence so fast that Tyler could barely keep up.
“I’m sorry I know you don’t like dogs and I should’ve asked before I said he should go on tour with you and Josh and that’s why I was being so weird about it yesterday when Josh was opening all his other gifts at your house because I didn’t want to bring a dog into your home because it’d be disrespectful to your wishes but Josh has talked about getting an emotional support animal since the end of the last tour and I thought it would be a nice surprise and don’t worry he’ll only stay at our place in L.A. or here at his parents house so he’ll never bother you and I promise he won’t annoy you on tour he’s so smart if you tell him to leave you alone he won’t give you a second thought again and please don’t hate me or him.” Debby covered her mouth to stop her own rant.
Tyler shook his head and blinked a few times letting his mind catch up to everything he just heard. When it finally caught up to him Tyler felt like an asshole.
She was really worried that he would hate her and went through the trouble of making sure he was comfortable and not bringing the animal into his house. Went through getting the animal trained to help Josh. Had she really though he would be upset with her?
Tyler felt something twist in his gut that felt a lot like shame that she did feel that way. He had obviously given off the impression that he would be angry.
Debby was considerate.
Tyler felt guilty.
“Debby,” he started “It’s completely fine. It’s a wonderful gift I could never be mad at you or the.... thing. Just look how happy it makes Josh. So I don’t like dogs but it’ll be so good for him. I’m sorry that I made you think I’d ever be upset about this.” Tyler meant it too. He was being selfish.
“Sometimes even I can’t help Josh through things. And I feel so helpless. And he was talking about how nervous tour can get for him and I can’t always be there because I work. I wanted Josh to be able to lean on someone or something rather. It was kind of a selfish gift but I hope he won’t be a bother to you.” Debby let out a sigh.
“I get it. I can’t always give him what he needs either. He’s right, it is the perfect gift.” Tyler agreed hoping that that sincerity of his words was conveyed to her.
She still looked wary.
Tyler felt guilty.
“Thank you for being so cool about it Tyler.” she looked like she wanted to say more but instead just patted his shoulder lightly before giving a small smile and returning to the living room.
The condensation off his drink dropped over his fingers as he lost himself in thought.
Tyler came to the realization that he didn’t know as much about Debby as he should. She started coming around again right at the end of the last tour and he barely had a week to get used to her presence before she and Josh were jetting back to Los Angeles.
And Josh and Tyler hadn’t talked much so far during their break. When they did, it was about future music.
Tyler felt guilty.
Debby had done something incredibly great for his best friend and he beat himself up for having the audacity to be grumpy over it. This animal could give Josh something Tyler couldn’t always. He was selfish.
Tyler looked out to the living room to see Josh, Jenna and Debby sitting on the floor with the bottoms of their feet together making a makeshift triangle and rolling a tiny ball around between them, cheering as the little golden retriever stumbled along the carpet with its tiny legs to keep up with the ball.
The sight melted away the last of his reservations and hesitancy to accept the animal. The puppy. He corrected himself in his head. The puppy tired quickly and flopped into Debby’s awaiting hands and let out a long sigh. Tyler smiled at the dramatic little thing. He and Josh were already a lot a like.
“What are you gonna name him J?” Jenna asked scratching the puppy’s chin.
Josh looked around and caught Tyler’s gaze from the kitchen.
“I was thinking Jim.” Josh gave a little knowing smile to Tyler.
“What do you think?” Josh motioned for Tyler to join them.
Tyler’s feet felt like they were being weighed down with cinder blocks as he shuffled towards the group of them and the sleeping puppy.
“I think, that means he will be my third favorite Jim I know.” Tyler grinned still eyeing the unconscious puppy.
“Third?” Josh prompted.
“Yes the first is of course Jim who works at that amazing pizza place downtown.”
They all burst into laughter.
“The second is my spooky baby Jim.” Tyler said situating himself on the carpet across from Josh and reaching over to squeeze his ankle.
“And he’s the last Jim I know so he’s just gonna have to settle for third.” Tyler shrugged pretending to be very serious.
“I think he’ll be fine with third.” Debby agreed, giving Josh’s shoulder a quick kiss.
Josh turned and kissed her on the lips mumbling thank you’s over and over as Debby laughed gently into his mouth.
Jenna watched her husband carefully as Tyler stared at the two of them together.
He vowed then and there that he was going to do his best to make sure Debby felt comfortable and welcome around him. She was good to Josh. And good for him. And Tyler had no business not knowing as much about her. Jenna and Debby were great friends. He made a pact with himself to make it up to her for making her feel like he would be mad at her for doing something as wonderful as this for Josh.
Tyler was determined.