A Face In The Crowd

February 2013

Jack paused and panted as the ball went downfield, having just passed it to his teammate. He loved playing football and still couldn't believe he was here at the Superbowl. He'd just been in the right place at the right time, and was now a famous player with fans all over the country.

But Jack wasn't self-centred; far from it. He knew he was lucky and didn't take any of it for granted. He had good friends and was doing well in his life. But it wasn't always easy; being a closeted gay football player wasn't easy, for he couldn't talk to his teammates about it. He could lose all his fans if it got out.

Hate this, he thought to himself as his mind wandered to the man whom he knew was in the stands. That man had been there by his side for the past few years and Jack played for him.

Just wish I could acknowledge him...

They'd been together for three years now, and had only been living together for six months. But it was going very well and they were happy. Their relationship had to be conducted behind closed doors, and he wondered if there might come a time when that would change.

Still, as he straightened up and looked around, he caught a pair of familiar eyes. His loving partner Ennis Del Mar was in the crowd as usual, watching him. Ennis had a smile on his face, clearly proud of the man he loved. Their relationship, as amazing as it was, had to remain a secret for the sake of his career. He hated the fact that he couldn't acknowledge Ennis in his interviews, or be snapped being intimate with him in public.

Whenever they went out, he didn't like how they couldn't hold hands when they wanted to. He wondered what Ennis thought of it. He had often had the thought that Ennis might feel like a dirty little secret, like a lot of football players had. Jack didn't like to think of a time when Ennis would decide that enough was enough.

It doesn't have to come to that, Jack realised as he looked at Ennis. Would it really be the end of my career if people found out? Sure, I might lose some fans and maybe I might get kicked off the team, but I'd be out and happy. Isn't that more important? I can't play football for the rest of my life, but I can be with him for all that time. When this is all over, I'd still have him. Maybe I should do it; then he'd know that he's more important to me than this.

Their eyes met across the field and Jack grinned at his partner, who nodded back at him. He then ran off and tried to win the game for his team. He told everybody that his victories were for the team, but he'd told Ennis that they were all for him.

Ennis watched Jack pause to catch his breath halfway along the field, and felt a surge of pride for how well he was doing. Jack was a great player and Ennis knew he loved doing this; he'd been to all of Jack's games since they'd gotten together three years ago, no matter where they had been held. The pair of them lived together in New York's Greenwich Village, and nobody bothered them; nobody but their closest friends even knew that they were together. Jack didn't want to risk his fans finding out about their relationship.

Jack had told him a lot about himself, but Ennis had been a fan even before they'd gotten together. He knew that Jack had been just eighteen when he'd been approached about trying out for a local team, and had since then progressed further up. Jack was very successful now and Ennis loved seeing him play.

He looks real good out there, Ennis thought to himself as Jack's eyes scanned the seats like beacons, clearly looking for him. He blushed at the knowledge that a famous sports star like Jack had chosen him for a partner. God...look at that body...Jack had a top-notch physique and it drove Ennis crazy with lust, especially when they were in bed. They had a healthy sex life and were very much in love with each other.

He knew that Jack hated how they couldn't be open about their relationship, being too scared of wrecking his career, and it had caused a number of arguments. Jack had tried to reassure Ennis that he meant more to him than anything else, but he had to wonder. Maybe he was just paranoid; Jack loved him and they were solid. He hoped that one day, they could get married; it was legal in New York, after all. But that would involve Jack coming out to the public, as they were bound to find out at some point if he married a man.

When he'd moved to New York three years ago from Wyoming, he'd never expected to not only meet a famous football player, but to also fall in love with him and end up in a relationship with him. Things had happened quickly, but they were happy together and he knew that there was nowhere else he would rather be. They didn't have a perfect life due to the secrecy, but both of them were willing to make it work and try to just get through the hard times.

It's worth it, he thought firmly, smiling when he thought about all the things they did have. Wouldn't want anything else more.

His eyes caught Jack's and they silently acknowledged each other before Jack ran off again, heading to bring a victory to his team. Ennis was so proud of Jack for his success, and was doing pretty well himself as an artist. It meant he could travel at his will, so he could attend Jack's games. He was standing by his man.

Jack's team won the game, and Ennis was waiting for him outside the stands after he'd showered and changed. Hardly anybody was around now, so he felt safe enough to wait here; surely people thought they were just friends anyway? He figured so, because he knew that people didn't think of football players being gay.

When the rest of the team started trickling out of the stadium, Ennis straightened up and kept his eyes peeled for the man he loved. Jack would know to look around for him; this was something they'd had to come up with for safety's sake.

Sure enough, Jack appeared and Ennis emerged into sight, smiling at him. Jack grinned and headed over to him. "Hey, you."

"You did great," Ennis told him, hands on his shoulders. He glanced around; they were alone, so he leaned in and they kissed warmly, glad to have some privacy. Neither of them liked how their relationship had to be a secret, but Jack was thinking that maybe it could change at some point.

"Thanks...saw you in the stands earlier, cheering me on." He grinned wider. "I like seeing you up there. I love you..."

"I love you too," Ennis told him, kissing him again before they started walking. They were staying at a hotel nearby; not wanting to cause suspicion, they had booked two rooms with an adjoining door, and Ennis simply made a point of making it look like his had been slept in. Every moment they spent alone was in Jack's room, often the bed.

They returned to the hotel and headed up, Jack ordering champagne as soon as they got in. "Feel like we should celebrate," he told Ennis as he took off his jacket. Ennis nodded and they sat down on the edge of the bed together, hands linking.

"So...I can tell there's something on your mind," Ennis said to him, looking into Jack's face. "You wanna tell me?"

Jack looked back at him and nodded, thinking over what he wanted to say. "Look...you know I love you. And...I know it's not easy for either of us that I don't talk about you in interviews and stuff."

"That's because you could lose a lot if this got out," Ennis reminded him. "I don't want that to happen."

"Neither do I. But...I don't like how I have to keep this a secret just for my career. That's just not right, and I've been doing some thinking." He looked into Ennis's eyes. "I wanna come out. To the press and everything...and tell them what a wonderful man I've got."

Ennis stared at him. "You sure? What if you lose all your fans? And your endorsements and everything? What if you have to quit?"

Jack shrugged. "Then that's it. I can't play football forever...but I do wanna be with you for as long as I live. Maybe longer, if it's possible. What d'you think?"

After a moment, Ennis nodded. "Okay. If that's what you want...you know I'll stand by you." Jack kissed him and felt lighter than he had in three years.

The process was swift. Jack told his manager that he wanted to arrange an interview with a representative of a large national newspaper, telling his manager that he was ready to come out to the press.

"You're more important to me than football," he told Ennis as they waited for the interviewer to arrive at the hotel on their last day. "You know that. At the end of the day...all I want is you."

Ennis nodded and they kissed. "Okay, bud. Are you sure you want me there? I mean...people are gonna see that you're with me, and when we get back to New York..."

"I know. But we can deal with it. I promise."

They met Sarah from the newspaper and sat down opposite her, ready to talk. "So Mr Twist," she started, drawing out a notebook. "What did you want to talk to the paper about?"

"Well..." He took a deep breath. "The thing is...I'm gay. I've known it for a long time, and...now I'm ready to settle things with the public."

She looked very surprised. "Wow...I didn't see that coming. So...who's this?" she asked, looking at Ennis curiously.

"My partner, Ennis Del Mar," he told her, taking Ennis's hand. "We've been together for three years, and we live together. For a while, I've been feeling like he's some secret I'm keeping, and I don't like it. I don't wanna do it anymore. He's more important to me, and I'm proud of being with him."

She nodded, scribbling notes. "I see. So...I take it that while you're proud of who you are, you don't want a lot of publicity?" Jack nodded; he'd never liked the paparazzi anyway.

"Yeah. I know the paps are gonna be hounding us when this gets out, but it'll die down eventually. And I know it won't be easy, with the team and everything, but I'm ready to do this. I love him, and this is how it is." Ennis squeezed his hand in support; he was very proud of Jack for doing this and was willing to stand by him.

She asked them a few more questions and then they were done. After she left, the pair of them embraced openly, taking comfort in each other. "That wasn't easy, but I'm glad I did it," Jack murmured in Ennis's ear. Ennis squeezed him.

"I know, darlin'. Come on, let's go start packing for tomorrow." As they walked, they held hands and Jack smiled in a friendly way whenever someone recognised him and then saw who he was with. He didn't care anymore if his career took a nosedive because of it; he was sick of lying.

They ordered room service for dinner, and spent the rest of the night lounging in bed together. The interview would run the next morning, and it would reach New York by the time they arrived home. It felt like the calm before the storm, but Jack knew he could handle it as long as Ennis was by his side.

They returned home the next day, and it was evident that the story had broken in the paper. As soon as the plane landed in JFK, there were cameras flashing and voices chattering. Jack sighed.

"Guess we knew this was gonna happen," he said to Ennis, who felt nervous but willing to stand his ground by Jack's side. This was where he belonged.

They fought their way through the crowd together; Jack's teammates had reacted fairly well to his news, and luckily they were big guys who could clear a path for them. When they got out of the airport, they found a cab and started heading home.

A copy of the paper was in their mailbox, and they read it together as they headed up to their apartment. Luckily, the cameras hadn't followed them, so they were able to have some privacy. Jack just wanted to spend some time with his partner.

The interview was presented exactly how it went, with an emphasis on them not wanting any publicity. Jack was hoping they didn't get too much attention; while he wanted people to know how things really were, he didn't want the paparazzi there every time he opened the door.

"Looks good," he commented finally, kicking off his sneakers. Ennis nodded and they curled up together on the sofa, feeling relaxed and lighter than they had in years. "Just gotta wait and see how people react, I guess."

"Yep." Ennis leaned in to kiss him, and soon they were making out with Jack on top of him, tongue down his throat. Before things went too far, Jack pulled away to tell Ennis what he wanted to. It felt right to him, in the light of the interview and his coming-out.

"Ennis...I've been thinking. You know...same-sex marriage is legal here...what do you think?" It wasn't the most romantic proposal, but he'd never done this before.

"Are you asking me?" Ennis replied, taken aback but already intrigued by the notion. They had been together for three years, after all, and they lived together. And now Jack was coming out to the public; maybe the time was right to seal everything.

"Well...I'm not saying we have to do it right now. But...yeah. I don't have a ring or anything, but...will you marry me?" he asked, grinning slightly. He wanted to do this, and he hoped that Ennis did too.

Ennis nodded, smiling up at him and already looking forward to it. "Yeah, I will." They kissed again and clothes came flying off. As he moved slowly inside Jack, Ennis felt as if his heart would burst with how much love it contained for this man. "God, I love you," he murmured, kissing Jack's neck.

Jack pulled him closer, feeling as if everything was coming together for them. "I love you too, baby. Always..." They made love for most of the evening and the night, eventually falling asleep in each other's arms and knowing that from now on, Ennis would never again be just a face in the crowd.