don't know if you've answered this, but when do you think Dean gave Cas the mixtape? 12x01? before?
Ahh, well, of course we can’t know, but I speculate it was after the “I love you” debacle of 12x12.
My personal interpretation:
Dean knew what Cas meant. Heck even Sam and Mary knew. It’s written all over Dean and Sam’s faces after the second clarification. They know.
Dean then gives Cas a mixtape, which is his way of trying to say it back but still sublimating, cos, well, he still is at this point.
Then the NEXT SCENE we get of them actually together in the same room, is the “worried wife” scene of 12x19 and the very next scene of them in the same room WITHOUT A CHAPERONE and without one of them under the influence of something terrible, which hasn’t happened since…. THE BURGER DATE????
We get confirmation of a mixtape and basically a “are we breaking up?” “no I still love you you idiot” scene.
So… what you’re telling me SPN is, looking, just since season 8,
Dean / Cas only scenes :
We went from:
“I’m not leaving here without you”
to “I did everything I could to get you out, EVERYTHING”
to “talk to me”
to “I need you”
to the wonder of 9x06
to the BURGER DATE
to hunter husbands in 12x01-02
to Dean being Cas’ human weakness, longing for him enough that he picked up on it, worrying over him on the couch in 12x10 (let’s not forget the actual chaperoned scenes in the diners of 12x10 and 12x22 either which were was SO romantically framed)
to “I love you”
to a mixtape and a MASSIVELY romantically coded potential break up / not a break up scene
to Cas’ death and Dean’s grieving.
I read an old ghost post from season 9 saying they just can’t write Dean and Cas in the same room without a chaperone anymore without it being romantic and… well, they’re not wrong.
It’s just gone from strength to strength.