If a male TV character says “I love you,” to another male character, but the line is cut from the script, did it ever really happen? And if it happens in Supernatural, does it mean the showrunners are finally admitting that one of the show’s leads, Dean Winchester, might be bisexual?

A few seasons ago, Supernatural was the last TV show you’d expect to include a canonically queer relationship involving one of the male leads. Sure, fans love to write about the male/male pairing of Dean and the angel Castiel (commonly known as “Destiel”), but the show itself doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to representing gay men. As a rule, minorities do not tend to last long in Supernatural

But in recent years, the showrunners have begun to develop a grudging respect for Destiel fans, partly because the pairing is so darn popular. Thanks to The Backlot’s poll of online fandom’s favorite slash pairings, we know that Destiel is the most popular pairing of the year, beating out the 2012 winner, Teen Wolf’s Sterek

Dean and Castiel have had a very intense relationship since Castiel first showed up four seasons ago, and many fans think this relationship could plausibly evolve into an onscreen romance. Supernatural is no stranger to queerbaiting (let’s be real here: there is a lot of “no homo” humor between Sam and Dean), but recently there have been hints that Dean and Cas might just make the leap into canon romance. Maybe. Possibly. 

Season 8, episode 17 is one of the slashiest hours of television a Destiel fan could’ve hoped for. But according to a recent interview with the cast at a Toronto fan convention, the perceived romance could’ve been a whole lot more explicit. In fact, the original script had Dean saying “I love you,” to Castiel. Actor Jensen Ackles replaced the line with “We’re family, I need you,” because Dean isn’t really the touchy-feely type.

This revelation was enough to send Supernatural fandom into turmoil. Was Ackles’ script alteration another hint of possible homophobia, like when he refused to answer a fan’s question about Destiel? Or does the inclusion of an “I love you” imply that Destiel might actually happen for real?

Right now, Tumblr and Twitter are aflutter with debates over whether the scripted “I love you,” counts as canon, and whether it can even be construed as anything stronger than platonic love. As Tumblr user spookyfangirlspookynovel put it, “woah woah woah guys I ship them so hard but there’s still a hella difference between ‘i love you’ and ‘I’m in love with you’.”

When the show went on air in 2005, this kind of fan theory would’ve had trouble gaining any traction among its mainstream fanbase. But with the rise of canonically queer characters in Tumblr-popular shows like Glee and, yes Teen Wolf, a “real” relationship between Dean and Cas no longer seems like a pie-in-the-sky fannish dream. In 2013, maybe you can see your favorite slash pairings come to life onscreen. Or at least, that’s what many fans are hoping. 

Aside from the popularity of Destiel for its own merits, a lot of fans would like to see Dean Winchester come out as bisexual. It’s relatively rare to see bisexual men on TV, and rarer still to see them come out in later life, after previously identifying as straight. Dean’s uber-macho behaviour and slightly homophobic attitude are often interpreted as signs of denial, and many longtime viewers feel it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to admit that Dean Winchester is into dudes. Unfortunately, there’s one other thing getting in the way: Dean Winchester himself. 

“I’ve begun to believe that the writers and the actors have set up this impossible scenario with regards to Dean and Castiel, and related, with Dean and his sexuality,” writes Tumblr user heyheyrenay. “I feel like the narrative since season four has been telling me one thing, slowly but surely, and the pay-off of that narrative is never going to be ‘romantic love.’ And if Dean Winchester, as Jensen believes, cannot cope with verbalizing those feelings, I also see my hope for any storyline supporting a explicit bisexual relationship between Dean and Castiel... fading. Because with Castiel, it’s been years. YEARS.”

In other words, there’s a distinct possibility that the main thing preventing a Destiel romance isn’t just the conservative fears of the showrunners or TV network—it’s Dean’s own personality. He might simply be too repressed to ever admit anything.

On the bright (ish) side, if Dean Winchester is going to fall for any guy, it’s definitely going to be Castiel.

Illustration via sweetdari/deviantART