sopranish replied to your post “My two cents on the first ‘you’”
I feel like there’s an obvious connection of Cas to Dean first- he rescued him, contacted him, etc… the show was his POV, but he’s overtly connected to Dean first and foremost. Of course that’s his closest relationship. And I think it’s bigger than just ‘your boyfriend’s family you also love’. While they tow the line a little much to not just be goosing intrigue, it’s officially and clearly a non-romantic love story. As a friend or more, you love your person, then you grow to love their people. Dean knows it’s directed at him, and it’s why neither of them can keep each other’s eye. Not to hide some sexual feeling connotation, but the sheer reality of it sitting on Dean. And for 'you should show me some respect’ Castiel to say.
Correct me if I’m misinterpreting your words, but I don’t think we can say that “it’s officially and clearly a non-romantic love story” when a crucial element recently emphasized is the taboo for angels of loving humans sexually. In 12x10 a plot point was the fact that Cas and the rest of his group (the ones who didn’t know the truth behind Ishim’s actions) misunderstood Akobel’s use of the word “love”. Akobel said he loved humans, but Ishim had told them that Akobel had a sexual relationship with Lily (to which a child was born) so they inflicted the death penalty on him on the spot. That doesn’t mean that Cas’ “I love you” was a deliberate confession of a specific kind of love, but that “what kind of ‘love’ does this use of the word ‘love’ expresses” is an actual element of the storyline being told, and I think that when Cas uses the word, the meanings flash into his mind. Or at least, the show has given us a textual instance of “confusion” between two kinds of love (“love… and love”, “love, heartbreak and… love”, it’s a pattern) in 12x10, so the meanings should flash into our - the viewers’ - minds, because nothing is random especially when there’s a pattern.
I believe that the conflict in the story of Dean and Cas’ relationship at this point is shame - that’s what their inability to keep eye contact expresses, among possible other things. Cas is ashamed because of all the things he’s internalized as an angel, Dean is ashamed because he believes he has corrupted Cas (not in a sexual sense, but in general). That’s why he has a visible reaction to the part where Cas says that the things they have shared have changed him, and also why 12x10 started putting emphasis on the fact that Cas believes that his relationship with the Winchesters has changed him for the better. Cas believes that he’s changed for the better, Dean is yet to be convinced of that, because Cas has become more like Dean, and for Dean that means… a downgrade, so to speak. Dean blames himself for dragging Cas down to his “level”, and he’s ashamed of that. As for Cas’ shame, I don’t think it’s uniquely a fact of “he wants to have sex with a human but that is a no-no thing for angels” because I believe it’s a larger thing that encompasses his sense of duty as an angel, his guilt for betraying that duty, his shame for the damages he’s wrought to the cause. The explicitation of the angel+human->nephilim taboo in 12x10 wasn’t strictly necessary, because before then we had plenty of explicit reasons to justify Cas’ shame for his attachment to Dean (not necessarily in romantic or sexual terms) and the sexual taboo existed deep in the subtext. 12x10 brought the sexual connotations of the taboo to the text (even if the taboo only applied to the conception of a nephilim, conceiving a child is about sex anyway).
Maybe the show will never have Dean and Cas be in an explicitly romantic relationship or be in a sexual relationship at all, but that would not invalidate that the story being told is not being told in non-romantic terms. At least this is how I see it and I’m watching it closely and I’m definitely not the only one. The subtext that codes them as a couple (in romantic and/or sexual terms) exists at least since season 7 (in fact some elements were purposely inserted by Jensen himself), more recently Dabb has even allowed a romantic interpretation of the events around 6x20, there’s a long history of subtext that I wouldn’t just call fostering intrigue, because it’s not just a quirky addition to wink at fans, but works as a giver of meaning to entire storylines (well, one storyline if you count it as declinations of the Dean-Cas story).