Why is the “I love you” admission in S12E12 Stuck in the Middle (With You) such a big deal? Oh, he’s not looking at Dean when he says it, you say?
Let’s consider this. For 8 seasons, we’ve seen Cas’s eyes burn holes into Dean’s. Even non-shippers can admit to the aggressive eye-sex that goes on between Dean/Cas (Jensen/Misha, chicken/egg) in nearly every episode they share together.
Cas has never had a problem making eye contact with Dean when he’s talking to him, when he’s not, and regardless of the subject matter. There’s nothing he’s uncomfortable with telling Dean.
But an admission of love…for either of them, it’s a taboo concept. Dean loves Sam more than anything in the world, and you can tell..but he won’t say it. He’s never said it.
Cas looks down, says “I love you”, then up at Sam and Mary, and reiterates “I love all of you.”
Cas thinks he’s dying, and the most important thing to him is telling these people he loves them. These people who do not and will not throw the words around willingly. Or in Dean’s case, at all.
Cas is uncomfortable telling Dean he loves him, because he knows this. He doesn’t look at him, because he knows Dean better than anyone, and he knows looking at him would make Dean uncomfortable. Would make him shut down. But he has to tell him, because he’s dying, and Dean deserves to know.
The lack of eye contact, to me, is telling. Notice he had no trouble making eye contact with Sam and Mary when he says “I love all of you”. The lack of eye contact tells me that something is out of the ordinary here, because I am more than used to Dean and Cas eye-fucking each other. It was a red flag to me. It was one of those “Hey, what just happened there?” moments. Where something was off, but you couldn’t quite put your finger on it.
We know the bond Cas and Dean share in canon. If their relationship was completely platonic, eye contact shouldn’t have been a problem (as it hasn’t been for the past eight years). But yet, here we are. The one time Cas isn’t able to hold Dean’s gaze, and it’s when he tells him he loves him.
That seems like an admission of romantic feelings, if you ask me.