Katie Holmes, Jamie Foxx

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One could argue they'd been building up to this moment for months. 

There was the L.A. gelato date where they walked hand-in-hand alongside the eldest of his two daughters in early April. The casual stroll through New York City's Central Park in late March following another round of whispers about a breakup. Even a shared kiss aboard a yacht last December before they rang in the new year in Miami. 

But when Katie Holmes and Jamie Foxx turned up at Monday night's Met Gala together—Hollywood's closest facsimile to prom night, if only the popular kids attended and iPhone selfies were replaced by hundreds of professional photographers—well, there was no denying their intention. 

Even before the previously meticulously private pair posed up for a photo inside, Foxx looping one arm around Holmes' violet tulle Zac Posen, their decision to turn up in a shared town car and even shimmy together to Rihanna as Posen captured every move for his Instagram story was akin to shouting, "Yes, guys, of course we're dating." 

Katie Holmes, Jamie Foxx, 2019 Met Gala, Inside

Kevin Tachman/MG19/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue

Because the Oscar winning star, 51, and the Ohio-bred actress-producer, 40, have found love and they aren't feeling all that hopeless about it—even if they spent the whole first stage of their relationship doing everything they could to deny what was taking place between them.

In the years since they were spotted dancing together at a charity event in the Hamptons in August 2013, arms slung casually around each other, the actors take on their pairing has transitioned from Foxx's "100 percent not true" and "quite hilarious" assertion to the old stand by "just friends" to an unidentified pal insisting they were "not about to run off and make some serious commitment".

This, as they went from going full-on cloak-and-dagger for any date nights they enjoyed outside of Foxx's sprawling California manse to allowing themselves to be photographed on a largely empty stretch of beach in Malibu during Labor Day weekend 2017. (While an argument could be made they were simply surprised by paparazzi, years of deftly avoiding said cameras would suggest they know exactly how not to be caught.) 

Now fully confident in what they have, they're just done with the whole sneaking around phase. "They are feeling more comfortable about being out in public together and not having to hide," an insider tells E! News. "They still don't want to have a public relationship, but it was a lot of effort to keep things under wraps and never be able to go out together. The burden of that has been lifted and they are feeling a lot more free to just go out and do normal things."

Though, admittedly, the skullduggery was fun while it lasted. 

Seemingly following the directive that Foxx had set for himself, insisting on Oprah's Next Chapter in 2012, "My thing is like this, this is what I say to all of my friends that are in this business: 'Whoever you're dating, don't let anybody know,'" the pair went to extreme lengths to avoid being spotted, or worse yet, photographed, together as they worked to figure out what exactly was happening between them. 

Jamie Foxx, Katie Holmes

TheImageDirect.com

A simple dinner date often meant disguising their famous visages in wide-brimmed floppy hats and wigs or renting out the whole place for fear that some eagle-eyed, pop culture-obsessed diner might out them. Should they wish to vacation together, as they did to Mexico in December 2016, it required a series of careful plans from staggered arrivals to in-suite dinners provided by the most tight-lipped of resort staff. 

Such careful measures made sense in the early days. Transitioning from pals, brought together by Holmes' ex-husband Tom Cruise, who buddied up to Foxx after their turn in the 2004 thriller Collateral, to potentially something more left them each with a lot to unpack. They also each had daughters to consider—Holmes now-13-year-old daughter Suri was just seven when reports of Mom's new boyfriend surfaced, while Foxx is dad to 25-year-old Corinne and Annalise, 9. 

And it would be understandable if Holmes, for one, had gotten her fill of living that public relationship life during her seven years on Cruise control, his couch jumping and Eiffel Tower marriage proposal, not to mention a shared Vanity Fair cover and 22-page pictorial with Suri, largely eclipsing her professional accomplishments. 

Katie Holmes, Jamie Foxx, Tom Cruise

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But even after the pair had settled into an easy companionship, being upfront, at least with pals as to where they stood, ("He could often be overheard talking flirtatiously to someone on the phone and excited to wrap up work and go home," an insider told Us Weekly, "it's been obvious that he's had someone special in his life for a long time,") they weren't eager to invite other spectators to gawk at their growing romance. 

"Katie and Jamie care about each other a lot and they tried to stay as quiet as possible because they didn't want to ruin that," a Holmes confidante told Us Weekly last year. "They knew the second they stepped out together, it would open the gates for criticism."

Plus, as two in-demand multi-hyphenates, their lifestyles didn't really allow for a 24-7 experience. Since divorcing Cruise, Holmes has thrown herself back into her acting career, pausing between roles to take on directing and producing gigs, enjoy a stint as the face of Bobbi Brown Cosmetics and even put out a now-shuttered fashion line. Foxx, in turn, balances music projects with film opportunities, the Robin Hood star currently juggling six movies in various states of production. 

"They spend time apart," a source noted to E! News. "They both travel and have lives outside of each other but they are very happy with this arrangement and to be together when they can be."

And as the years passed it just made more sense to be together-together.

After all, as much as Foxx treasures his privacy when it comes to romance, he's not one to allow his girl to feel anything less than treasured. Take it from Olivia Munn, who shared the advice her pal of nearly a decade offered up when he caught her wistfully staring across a party at her secret companion. 

"I was official, but I was waiting for him to say it. But, it wasn't going to happen," she explained during a November appearance on Busy Tonight. "I'm on one side of this party and he's on the other side, talking to different girls and stuff, and I'm feeling so depressed. I decided to leave early, and then Jamie stops me and he's like, 'Where are you going?'" Having pieced the whole situation together, she continued, he asked, "Is he the reason you're leaving?"

Jamie Foxx, Katie Holmes

Felipe Ramales / SplashNews.com

Though she ultimately decided to head home, Foxx assured her he'd be checking in later, a vow he followed through on. "He left a voicemail and said, 'Did you come out here to be somebody's girlfriend? No! Did you come out here to be somebody's wife? No! Did you come out here just to date this guy? No! Did you come out here to be an actress? Yes!,'" she shared. "'Don't you ever, let me see you cry about some guy like that ever again! Don't you ever let some other guy make you feel like that ever again!'"

So far be it for him to allow his girlfriend to feel less than. 

Once they broke through their self-imposed privacy cocoon with the Labor Day 2017 photos (before that pictures of them together were limited to a 2006 shot of them flanking Cruise on the sidelines of a football game and a grainy 2015 pic of them holding hands in a recording studio, there was no reason for her not to turn up at his 50th birthday party, Hollywood's Paramount lot done up to look like a LIV on Sundays bash at Foxx's preferred Miami nightclub. (Albeit she still attempted to hide her face as she left dinner at The Highlight Room with her guy en route to the main event.)

Katie Holmes, Jamie Foxx

DOBN / RMBI / BACKGRID

And why shouldn't they let down their guard and get a little cozy at Clive Davis' 2018 Pre-Grammy Gala? Designating the annual fete as their "quiet debut" meant bravely sitting side-by-side at the same table, but skipping the joint red carpet appearance and having Holmes conveniently duck out of the room as the legendary record producer took to the mic to call out their date night.

So, you know, baby steps. 

"They are still going to keep their relationship on the low," a source noted at the time, "but you may see more random outings with them going forward."

Still, old habits die hard. A frustrated Foxx abruptly ended an ESPN interview when quizzed about his connection to Holmes last year, because being seen together is not the same as offering up glowing soundbites or making things Instagram official.

And as recently as December, when the pair toasted her 40th birthday over mugs of Frrrozen Hot Chocolate at New York's Serendipity 3, they took pains to avoid a two-shot, with the actress exiting their shared car just ahead of Foxx. 

Katie Holmes, Jamie Foxx

Jackson Lee / SplashNews.com

"They aren't a couple who is going to stroll down the street holding hands," insisted a source. Save for the handful of times they have been that exact couple, they'd rather not offer up such concrete proof of their pairing. "They just want to stay off the radar and keep it to themselves," continued the source. "They have a routine that works well." 

They're just not going to go out of their way to keep the public guessing. With a multitude of pictures now out in the ether, Hollywood's worst-kept secret has been revealed and, frankly, it's just not worth the effort to keep pretending, says the original insider. 

"It's been a weight off of their backs," explains the insider, "and they are really enjoying just living their lives and not worrying so much about word getting out that they are a couple."

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